Nursing News

New AACN President Dares Nurses to Move Outside Comfort Zone

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By Debra Wood, RN, contributor 

May 25, 2012 - When Kathryn E. Roberts, RN, CNS, MSN, CCRN, CCNS, incoming president of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), left the stage at the organization’s annual National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition in Orlando, nearly 6,500 nurses in the audience had agreed to overcome fears, try something new or change some aspect of their personal or professional lives in keeping with the “Dare To” theme she picked for the coming year.

The art for the Dare To theme includes butterflies, fish swimming away from the pack, a skydiver and more elements, including the words "Act, Dream, Change, Lead."

Unveiled during her keynote address on May 23, 2012, the theme is designed to motivate, inspire and engage the nursing community for the next 12 months.

“It’s up to you to turn your spark into a flame and risk seeking excellence,” said Roberts, a clinical nurse specialist in the pediatric ICU at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “There is always change. The bar is constantly moving higher and higher.”

Achieving new heights requires pushing oneself beyond boundaries, beyond the comfort zone, she added. While that includes taking risks, she cautioned that she was not advocating risky behavior that could harm oneself or someone else. Rather she invoked a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing everyday that scares you,” for the purpose of achieving the greater good.

Roberts recalled how she began her tenure on the AACN board with some self-doubt about whether she could do the best job possible, something she described as a “crisis in confidence.” She said she took several deep breaths, confided in others and discovered the problem was within her.

“It gave me pause to wonder how to get past the fears,” said Roberts, who realized she had to get back on track to move forward with her original goals. She added that it was not all that different than when her dad took the training wheels off the bike or she had to speak in her junior high classroom.

“I had to step out of my comfort zone,” Roberts said.

Incoming AACN President Kathryn E. Roberts, RN, CNS, MSN, CCRN, CCNS, inspired nurses to leave their comfort zones and strive for excellence in the year ahead."

Roberts has done that personally and professionally, becoming a competitive ballroom dancer and struggling with the self-doubt associated with her first patient death. But she did not call in sick the next day; rather she came back determined to provide the best care possible.

The push for the highest level of care often includes speaking up. She pointed out that lack of action also can be considered risky behavior, citing a study indicating that more than half of nurses did not speak up when they saw a safety problem.

“We are they, and the choice to act is ours,” Roberts said. “Sometimes that’s scary, but that’s not a reason not to do it.”

Before ending the session Roberts asked every nurse in the room to dare to do something to achieve the optimal contribution, write it down, place it in a decorative box each nurse received when they walked into the room, and share the dare with someone sitting nearby. She asked them to put the box in a place where they will see it every day when they go home and to let it serve as a reminder to “keep the dare front and center.”

Nurses can share their dare with her on Facebook or by email. She will post her dares as well. Roberts indicated she wants to know how nurses’ dares turn out and pledged to root for the nurses as they pursue their dares.

“Sometimes I’ll challenge you to consider a new dare,” Roberts said. “I may even double-dog dare you to move further out of your comfort zone.”



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