1. Baker, Kathy A. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN

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I am sitting at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport with a colleague on a Saturday afternoon, waiting to board a plane home from the 2015 SGNA Leadership Conference. I am a bit distraught at having to travel during my home team's football game (both teams playing today are undefeated, so a lot is on the line). And as usual, when I am using precious time on a weekend to travel for nursing, I ask myself, "Why do I do this?" The answers come easy for me when I really think about it! I give my time because I believe in SGNA. I am proud to be a nurse and academician. I want to make a difference. What about you? Why do you do the things you do?

Kathy A. Baker, PhD,... - Click to enlarge in new windowKathy A. Baker, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN

Whenever I ask undergraduate students about their reasons for pursuing nursing, they often answer, "I want to help others." A few mention the job security of nursing. I remember being attracted to the excitement of acute care even when I didn't really understand much more about healthcare than what I saw on television. Why did you pursue nursing? Or, as I have come to realize for myself, did nursing actually pursue you?


I have frequently contemplated why I chose the employers with whom I have affiliated through the years. My first nursing positon was at a teaching hospital that offered a new graduate residency, something that was considered cutting-edge at the time. I was selected for the residency and was able to gain amazing experiences in this first hospital setting, both clinically and professionally. Over the next six years, I worked in numerous clinical areas (pulmonary step-down, medical intensive care, surgical intensive care, high risk antepartum, well mom and baby) as well as learned formal leadership skills as a charge nurse, assistant unit manager, unit manager, and house supervisor. I obtained certification for the first time (in critical care) and within two years of employment as a new graduate had been encouraged by colleagues to go back to school. My decisions weren't well thought out at all. I just moved through one day at a time, following my instincts, asking for divine guidance, and listening to those around me.


Because I was practicing in a teaching hospital, professional development was always role modelled and expected. I was encouraged to pursue certification. I was supported to attend the national educational symposium for my practice specialty, appointed to hospital nursing committees, and given flexibility in my work schedule when I went back for graduate education. I was offered stimulating continuing education opportunities at the hospital and encouraged to attend outside continuing education events as well.


After a very happy career at my first employer, I began to yearn for something more. I wanted more responsibility and to expand my opportunities for influence. I began to interview for outside positions and was thrilled to be hired as the manager for the gastroenterology department at the county hospital. This hospital was also a teaching hospital and known for outstanding patient care and providers.


In this role, I worked with amazing colleagues in nursing and medicine. I had the opportunity to work closely with medical school faculty who saw my potential as a scholar and invested time and money in my professional development. I began to write for publication and was soon asked to travel to meetings where I learned more about clinical care at a national and international level. I was encouraged to become involved in our local SGNA regional where I eventually held every office. My experiences as a regional leader caused me to seek out national volunteer opportunities for further growth, so with the support of my employer and colleagues, I volunteered for SGNA service. I was selected to be a member of the certification board and my opportunities for volunteer service never ended.


Through my SGNA service, I eventually was approached to become the journal editor, a dream job I had always aspired to but never thought I would obtain. That position seemed far out of my grasp, so I was stunned when the SGNA Board president approached me about my willingness to be considered for the position. As journal editor, I met the president of our international gastroenterology nursing organization, Society of International Gastroenterological Nurses and Endoscopy Associates (SIGNEA), who quickly tapped me as a speaker at various international venues and introduced me to many colleagues who I now consider friends around the world. I learned a great deal from others globally and hope they feel the same about me.


Along the journey, I made decisions both consciously and unconsciously, to take advantage of opportunities that were presented in my career. I had opportunities to mentor and be mentored. Colleagues and sometimes mere acquaintances offered me counsel, pushed me to take risks, removed barriers, applauded my achievements, and helped me to persevere. In turn, I have tried to be that mentor for others, offering insight, reflection, direction, and affirming potential in others I have the privilege to influence.


So why do I do the things I do? As I have stated, I haven't always had a focused vision, purpose, or plan. I did things because the opportunity presented. I knew I wanted to make a difference, and I knew I wanted to grow along the way. I wanted my life to count. Now as I look back, I realize I do the things I do because I am fortunate to have garnered skills and expertise across my life experiences that allows me to give to others while I also gain blessings for myself. I do what I do because I now recognize I have something to give. I know I can make a difference. I am following the path life has given me. I am saying yes along the way, even when I can't see where the path is taking me. I have choices that allow me to go beyond the ordinary to experience the extraordinary. I do what I do because I can. I choose to say yes.


Why do you do the things you do? Are you willing to take risks, give back, sacrifice time or money, make a difference, and reach to fulfil your potential? Why do you serve ... or not serve? Why do you pursue additional professional development ... or not? The journey for each of us looks different and the contributions we make along the way will also differ. But doing what we do can impact others, fill a gap, or cast a new vision. Consider why you do the things you do. It's never too late to do new things, explore emerging opportunities, or sustain current efforts with renewed enthusiasm and commitment. Take time to reflect on why you do the things you do and affirm your current path, or redirect towards your desired vision. The things we do matter to others as well as ourselves. Do the things you need to do in order to be who you want to be. Give back. Leave a legacy. Make a difference.