1. Bindon, Susan L. DNP, RN-BC, CNE

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I wonder what went through readers' minds when they saw the title of this editorial. Did they think, "Oh yes, it's almost that time," or "Who, me? Never!" or maybe even, "Been there, done that." Fortunately, the title isn't related to hair color or to one's approaching a certain age. In this case, the term "going gray" refers to the way we think, process, or make decisions.


In nursing school, much of what we learned was presented in black and white terms; things were right or wrong, true or false, normal or abnormal. Black and white thinking usually leads to one answer or solution, making decisions feel safe and consistent. We learned facts, basic rules, general principles, and standards of practice. We applied yes/no algorithms in clinical situations. This information gave us a firm base of nursing knowledge.


With experience, though, we recognize patterns and develop our own styles of thinking and doing. We realize that questions can have more than one right answer and problems can have many solutions. Our experience informs our thinking, and our thinking drives our actions. Still, some nurses adhere to black and white ways of thinking and may be uncomfortable when situations are cloudy, ambiguous, or gray. Others are comfortable exploring the unknown and will make decisions based on the best available information, within the context of safety and propriety. We often hear this way of working described as thinking outside of the box or coloring outside of the lines. Like any good adventure, it sounds daring, messy, potentially dangerous, and uncertain. It sounds pretty gray. It also sounds exciting!


I think these gray areas are fertile ground for fostering creativity and generating new ideas. They give us an opportunity to collaborate. For starters, I encourage nursing professional development practitioners to also look inside the box or between the lines and see what can be repurposed. We don't need to throw the old black and white box away. We can flip it over, flatten it out, and turn it into something new. Some of our best ideas emerge when we're faced with situations or decisions that aren't clear-cut or prescribed by precedence. These events give us an opportunity to apply our education and leadership acumen. There is a wonderful Latin phrase, Si ventus non est, remiga, which means loosely, "When there is no wind, row." In other words, if the status quo isn't working, change tactics, switch directions, go gray.


When projects stall, resources shrink, and new ideas are scarce, nurses can benefit by going gray. We can try a different way of listening, thinking, and deciding. Be less eager to say yes or no and more willing to say maybe, or even ask what if. Seek new solutions to existing problems, look at situations from all angles, and listen for unique ideas that can lead to progress. It's okay to step away from the rule book now and then. Go gray! There is so much color in the grayness.