1. Roush, Karen MSN, FNP, RN


The real power of nurses.


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If you work in a hospital, you're a critical care nurse. That's the message Ramon Lavandero, MA, MSN, RN, FAAN, director of development and strategic alliances for the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) would like to get out to hospital nurses, most of whom think that only ICU or ED nurses qualify for that descriptor and therefore miss out on the myriad opportunities for education, networking, and professional guidance and support that the AACN provides to its members.


"Ask the bedside nurses what they're doing," he says. They're providing a level of care that years ago only existed in ICUs."

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The AACN has evolved to reflect that change, which was certainly evident at this year's National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition, held May 19 through 24 in Atlanta.


The convention center is the size of a small city, and the exhibit hall could easily hold five football fields. Luckily I was given a tour the next day, or I would've missed the helicopters and ambulances.


The size of the hall shows how important nurses are to the business of health care. There were elaborate, two-story constructions sheltering equipment valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars and small classrooms where company nurses conducted in-services throughout the day.


And when you're that important to a business, you have power-power that can be used to improve the quality of patient care and power to improve the quality of nurses' work environment. And that was the focus of this year's conference: healthy work environments.


The 6,500 nurses in attendance had the opportunity to hear AACN president Mary Fran Tracy call for nurses to come together, think positively, and use what she calls the "thought pause" strategy-taking a moment during a hectic shift to think before acting. The results of a study conducted by the AACN, the Gannett Healthcare Group, and the Bernard Hodes Group were presented at the conference. The study found that nurses working in Magnet facilities and those with Beacon units (an award from the AACN for excellence in critical care) had more healthful work environments, as evidenced by greater job satisfaction, higher-quality care, better communication and collaboration, and greater support for continuing education and certification. Although the results weren't a surprise, according to Lavandero, who was one of the authors, an interesting fact did emerge: "The ratings for organizations in the process of pursuing the designations were often higher than those who had already achieved it." The challenge now, he said, is to find ways to sustain the momentum once Beacon or Magnet status has been achieved.


Abstracts addressed new-graduate orientations, mentoring, recognition programs, and other recruitment and retention strategies. Ideas to improve nurse-physician communication and relationships, to prevent work-related injuries, to promote patient safety, and even for a "serenity room" where ICU nurses could "de-stress" during work were presented.


Looking down on thousands of nurses walking through millions of dollars' worth of equipment set up just to impress them, I knew what my "take-home message" from this conference was going to be. Nurses have power. And they're using it.