1. Mason, Diana J. PhD, RN, FAAN, AJN Editor-in-Chief

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Every year I hear from readers who ask why the May issue of AJN doesn't explicitly address Nurses Week. I suggest they read my editorial from April 1999 that addressed my ambivalence about this Hallmark-card event: too many employers "celebrating" by plying nurses with food, tchotchkes, and platitudes while continuing to treat them poorly. Let me share with you an experience that could be replicated for Nurses Week celebrations in any institution serious about transforming nurses' workplaces.


In October of last year, the Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership at the University of Minnesota presented a conference, A Summit of Sages (the Center for Creative Health Care Management was a cosponsor and has posted a summary of the conference at Joanne Disch, director of the Densford Center, told participants that this was a celebration of six trailblazers and visionary heroes in nursing and health care: Patricia Benner, Claire Fagin, Vernice Ferguson, Marie Manthey, Angela Barron McBride, and Margretta Madden Styles.


Each "sage" was asked to speak about a defining moment in her career. I cannot do justice to what these women shared, but there were a number of points I found inspiring. I have taken the liberty of elaborating on three of them.


You have more power than you realize.

Patricia Benner tells staff nurses that nothing will happen on their units that they don't want to have happen. Her message, in my view, is that although many nurses feel powerless in their positions, they are not. The first step to having power is believing you have it-and using it.


Be prepared to speak for patients and nursing when working with nonnurses.

If you're the token nurse in a group, be very well prepared. Your initial comments cannot be about nursing or you'll appear to be too self-interested. Start by talking about what patients need or how they are affected by a situation, and then segue into nursing. Describe how nurses can and do contribute to improving patient outcomes. Always speak, even if it's only to ask a question.


Our invisibility is comfortable; it protects us from facing our fears.

While we decry nursing's invisibility in the media and at decision-making tables in the workplace, individual invisibility is comfortable. Nurses already have a huge responsibility for people's health and lives, so it shouldn't be surprising that many nurses don't want more, as one sage said. Being outspoken and taking risks are likely to make you more visible-and that can be terrifying. One of the most remarkable moments with these women was a discussion of their own fears of failure. But those fears didn't stop them from pursuing their ideas, and it need not stop you.


One way to uncover the "sage within" is to spend Nurses Week talking with nurses in your community who have been remarkable leaders. Ask them to share their stories, their successes and failures, their strategies for taking risks. The sage need not be a "famous" nurse; a great person to engage in such a dialogue may be a senior clinical leader who has led significant changes in patient care.


I had the privilege of having a number of discussions with another of nursing's sages before she died, Edith "Pat" Lewis, who was a former editor of this journal (see page 111). She shared her honest opinions of the changes in AJN over the past six years, including telling me when she thought my editorials fell short. But most important, she talked with me about her own experiences and challenges as an editor, further instilling in me the confidence to speak my mind and continue taking risks.


Perhaps Nurses Week should be a time for finding the sage within, sharing what we've learned from the past year's struggles, and encouraging one another to seize opportunities for leadership.