1. Cartwright, Cathy C. MSN, RN-BC, PCNS, FAAN


This month's Magnet(R) Perspectives column is authored by one of the winners of the 2015 Magnet Nurse of the Year award. Cathy Cartwright, a pediatric clinical nurse specialist in neurosurgery, reflects on lessons learned during her nursing career by taking advantage of opportunities and persevering to maximize her impact on patient care.


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October 2015 was a very special time for me. After having a fulfilling 40-year nursing career, I was privileged to receive the National Magnet(R) Nurse of the Year for Exemplary Professional Practice. The following week, I was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, an additional honor. As I reflect on the journey from a new graduate nurse to the Magnet Nurse of the Year, I realize that the path has not always been straight, but the lessons learned have been invaluable. To me, the key to making a difference in your career is to identify your passion, take advantage of opportunities along the way, and have the perseverance to follow through.

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I always wanted to be a nurse, and my experiences as a candy striper at Children's Mercy Hospital inspired me to become a pediatric nurse. By the time I graduated from nursing school, my goal was to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Little did I know that it would take many years to reach that goal. I started my nursing career as a pediatric intensive care unit staff nurse and later worked as an educator and a nurse manager before finally becoming a neurosurgical APRN.


Career Lessons Learned

Communication Skills

I have learned the importance of acquiring new skills with every step of my career. As an assistant nurse manager, one of my responsibilities was outreach education. I enjoyed speaking to groups of nurses, teaching them about pediatric nursing. I did not realize it at the time, but this was preparing me for future speaking opportunities. Later, when I was in leadership roles or speaking at national or international conferences, these communication skills were essential.


Being a Good Collaborator

My dream of being a pediatric APRN was finally realized when I took a job as a pediatric clinical nurse specialist (CNS) in neurosurgery. In this role, the value of a good team became obvious. My neurosurgeon practice partner, Dr David Jimenez, and his wife, a plastic surgeon, developed the endoscopic strip craniectomy, a minimally invasive technique for correction of craniosynostosis. I helped develop the 1st craniofacial program that featured this surgical technique. My role included creating the Web site, which attracted patients worldwide, educating parents on craniosynostosis, preparing children for surgery, and speaking to other healthcare providers about the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. That technique is now a standard of practice because in part of the collaboration of our team.


Professional Organization Membership

Being involved in my professional organization has been important to my success. I attended the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN) annual meeting during my first year as a CNS. I was inspired by the brilliant, energetic, and amazing nurses I met there. I volunteered for several opportunities in AANN and was eventually elected to the Board, serving as Director-at-Large, Secretary-Treasurer, and then as President. Being active in a professional organization opened doors for new networks, provided opportunities for leadership, and allowed me to advocate for my profession. As a leader, you must learn to lead peers who are often more experienced or have a different perspective. This was a situation where my communication skills and the ability to collaborate with others came in handy.



When I began as a pediatric CNS in neurosurgery, I looked for a reference book for my role but found none. After much discussion over time with my colleagues, we realized that we needed to write the book on pediatric neurosurgical nursing as a resource for others. I undertook the responsibility of finding a publisher willing to take a risk on the project, lining up expert nurses to write the chapters, and editing the content with my colleague Donna Wallace. The proposal was rejected many times. Ultimately, Nursing Care of the Pediatric Neurosurgery Patient was published in 2007.1 A 3rd edition will be published in 2017. This accomplishment leads to my final lesson learned; don't give up-perseverance pays!



I am honored and humbled to receive the Magnet award. It is been quite a journey, but along the way, I have been privileged to work with nurses who are dedicated to improve the health and well-being of children, partnered with great collaborators, and taken advantage of opportunities when they arose. Most importantly, I have been able to positively impact the lives of children and their families, and that has made for a rewarding career, regardless of awards.




1. Cartwright CC, Wallace DC, eds. Nursing Care of the Pediatric Neurosurgery Patient. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer; 2007. [Context Link]