1. Miracle, Vickie A. RN, EdD, CCRN, CCNS, CCRC, Editor-in-chief, DCCN

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A few weeks ago, I caught myself almost saying something I promised I would never say. My daughter, who is a student at the University of Kentucky, introduced me to one of her friends. This young woman told me she was in the nursing program. Regretfully, my first instinct was to tell her to run as fast and as far as possible in any other direction. Instead, I offered to assist her with her career at any time. I felt bad that I almost steered this bright young woman toward another profession. In the midst of the worst nursing shortage I have seen (and I have seen several), we need to encourage bright and energetic people to join the nursing profession. When I reflected on what almost happened, I realized there was a small strand of truth in what I was thinking.


How many times have I daydreamed about a job in an ice cream store? Too many to count. After the experience with my daughter's friend, I knew it was time for a major attitude adjustment.


Thankfully, I attended two national nursing conferences several weeks later. I was fortunate to attend the Nursing2002 program in Las Vegas and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses National Teaching Institute in Atlanta. These meetings are always a good experience for me. Although the educational programs are interesting and enlightening, they are not the only reasons to attend a national program. And while I like to attend sessions on new technology and treatments-especially in the area of cardiac and/or pulmonary nursing-I often learn more from the many exhibitors in attendance showcasing their products. Attendance at national meetings is a wonderful opportunity to see new products, learn more about specific disease processes, attend programs on self-improvement, and learn about new medications we can use in our daily practice.


Another wonderful opportunity while attending a national conference is the chance to network with nurses from throughout world. It is always rewarding to meet with old friends and to make new ones. During these meetings, you discover that nurses from everywhere share the same concerns and face the same challenges on an everyday basis. You realize you are not alone. During these meetings, you have the opportunity to learn how nurses from other areas of the world may have developed strategies to help solve some of the challenges you face at home.


Also, major conferences often offer opportunities for fun with social events. Many meeting planners incorporate social events for the participants. Just go and have some fun. I always leave these meetings feeling refreshed and feeling good about being a nurse.


So, why are these meetings more important than the local conferences we all attend? Local educational conferences are great and I strongly encourage attendance. However, drawback of local meetings is that your scope of interaction is limited to the same individuals at each gathering. Meeting new people from areas far from your home base is an exciting opportunity for all nurses. Because I started attending national conferences, I have friends from all over the world. We regularly stay in contact with each other. Our problems and challenges are similar, but we may have different ways of solving them. Tap into those resources to solve your daily challenges.


Feeling good about your career choice is essential. As we all know, the average age of the nurse is increasing. Fewer high school and college students are choosing nursing as a career. There are many more career options today, many of which pay more, offer better working hours, and are less demanding. Unfortunately, I know several nurses who are leaving the profession to seek another career for a variety of reasons.


I am not going to list the reasons for the nursing shortage; we already know what they are. We need to focus on how to stop the flow of nurses leaving the progression and how to start encouraging others to join us. How can we do this if we are frustrated? We cannot; we must remember why we became nurses in the first place and share this information with others. Many schools of nursing are now recruiting professionals from other careers and offering nursing as a second career choice. Perhaps an alternative option would be to allow nonnurses to attend our national meetings and become enthusiastic and interested in nursing as a potential career.


I realize attending a national meeting can be expensive. Many employers are slashing education budgets and may not offer any financial assistance to attend. Believe me, I have been there and have paid from my own pocket to attend these programs. There are ways to attend national meetings while keeping costs to a minimum. For example, many meetings offer a reduced registration fee to individuals who register early. Share a hotel room with friends. Take advantage of the social events, many of which include food and are included in your registration fee. Also, educational expenses are tax-deductible if related to your career. Sometimes, I extend the stay a few days and have a short vacation with my family.


We need to stay energized about our careers. By keeping ourselves informed and excited about our profession, we can make an even bigger influence on our patients and on others who may be considering a career in nursing. The media is beginning to bring the effects of the nursing shortage to the public. The public and many employers are beginning to realize the importance of nursing. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that patients who had more care from RNs were less likely to die during the hospitalization, less likely to suffer complications, and have a shorter length of stay. 1 I have heard this study reported on the local and national news and have seen it in newspapers. The public is listening. Now is the time for nurses to act. But we cannot act if we are not excited about nursing. If we are apathetic and feeling "burned-out," these feelings will project to others. I am excited to see the media provide information about the nursing shortage and the importance of nurses. Now, we must do our part.


I have always thought of nursing as a calling. Even so, I sometimes become discouraged. This is why I try to attend at least 1 national meeting per year-to remind me of why I became a nurse and to interact with others in similar situations. While I attend and support local conferences, there is a difference when you are with 6,000 other critical care nurses from around the globe. These conferences are a "shot in the arm" for my career. They jump-start my enthusiasm and make me even prouder to be a nurse.


To save our profession and to rejuvenate your career, consider attending a national conference. Encourage others to join you. Encourage students and those already working in other careers to consider nursing. The rewards far outweigh the challenges. We will all benefit from the payoff in the end. If we do not recruit caring people now, who will care for us?




1. Study says using registered nurses help save lives, costs hospital stays. The Courier Journal. 2002. May 30;A3. [Context Link]