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The 2008 Annual National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists Conference surpassed all records in attendance, abstract submissions, and exhibitors! In addition to multiple scientific sessions, this year's schedule included 2 well-attended preconference sessions and 1 postconference session. The awards luncheon showcased outstanding members and a long list of the organization's accomplishments. There is no doubt that each attendee left with some favorite memories; here are a couple of mine.


The opening keynote was delivered by Rhonda Scott, PhD, RN, a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) and now Chief Nursing Officer, Senior Vice President for Patient Care Services for Grady Health System, Atlanta. She challenged us to have the courage to nurse. The courage to nurse, as I heard it, is a clarion call to not just value nursing but also center oneself in the value of nursing. With courage rooted in a deep internalization of the value of nursing, nurses are empowered to act. For Dr Scott, nursing is a passion, a calling, an avocation. It requires putting patients and families first, striving for excellence, persisting in the face of barriers. It is not always easy; it takes courage to nurse.


The closing address was delivered by Anna Gawlinski, DNS, RN, a CNS, and Director of Evidence-Based Practice, University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, Los Angeles. Her presentation drove home the central responsibility that CNSs have for advancing evidence-based nursing practice and for leading nurses in habits of questioning practice and seeking evidence. The congruence between her remarks and the overall content of the conference provided a comfortable culmination that reflected consensus about the nature of CNS practice. Clinical nurse specialist practice is remarkably similar across settings and specialties.


At the end of her presentation, Dr Gawlinski called for questions. One audience member spoke into the microphone that she had a "dirty little secret," explaining that she was a nurse practitioner who was asked by her hospital to fill 1 of 3 new CNS positions. To facilitate her transition from nurse practitioner to CNS, the hospital administration sent her to the conference. She shared that after participating in the entire conference, she was returning to the hospital to tell the administration that she realizes how thoroughly unprepared she is to function as a CNS and to recommend that they hire "real" CNSs. She discovered that CNS and nurse practitioner are 2 very different roles. She took her seat to resounding applause in recognition of her observation and honesty.


After the conference, I reflected on conversations about the differences and similarities in advanced practice roles, especially comparisons between CNSs and nurse practitioners that have often been distracting, demoralizing, and destructive. Our patients and the public need all of us. There are plenty of challenges and opportunities-there is room for both roles, for all roles. May we all find the courage to nurse.