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Voice of the President | July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everything in our personal and professional lives. We are social distancing while trying to remain connected; we are wearing masks in both public spaces and patient rooms. Boundaries are blurring as work becomes home and home becomes work. It is difficult to manage so much change at once and I want to recognize and thank each and every one of you for your leadership during this unprecedented time. You have quickly adapted, innovated and advocated for new ways to protect ourselves, our patients and our communities. 

New models for education, advocacy 

The process of adapting for AONL has meant the cancellation of our national conference and leveraging our educational platform for rapid knowledge sharing and development.

I hope you will join me at the AONL 2020 Virtual Conference this fall. On Sept. 24, AONL will offer a full day of content with keynote speakers, educational sessions, an exhibit hall and networking opportunities. The quarantine has emphasized how important it is to connect and learn from our colleagues. 

The quarantine also required AONL to find a different model for Advocacy Day. Advocacy is at the core of what we do each and every day for our patients and their loved ones, and now more than ever, each other. On March 19, AONL CEO Robyn Begley attended a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting, which included the president and vice president. She advocated alongside colleagues from other nursing organizations for increased personal protective equipment (PPE) for our front-line staff, and removing licensing barriers. These nursing organizations also underscored the importance of caring for nurses and their families during this unprecedented time.  

That spirit of advocacy continued last month when nurse leaders from across the country made time in their busy schedules to participate in a webinar with the Congressional Management Foundation, followed by a briefing on legislative priorities for nursing and patient care, presented by Jo Ann Webb, AONL vice president for federal relations and policy. Together, they provided the information and guidance so that our members could effectively advocate through a letter-writing campaign on June 4 to their elected representatives. From the bedside to Congress, and from the White House to every clinic, hospital and other setting of care, nurse leaders are working tirelessly to ensure that both our staff and our patients receive the care they need.  

Responding with leadership 

“We have been resilient to manage through many challenges, including shortages in staffing, medications, ventilators or PPE. Many have worked until exhausted, only to come back the next day with the same energy and dedication. . . . Never have I ever been so proud to be a nurse.

It has been truly amazing to be a part of the transformational leadership now taking place across our country. With so much change upon us, it is important to recall our past successes and the elements that lead to that success. With that in mind, we have decided to reprint a collection of some of our most popular articles about leadership, quality improvement and patient satisfaction—all timely topics. We are sharing these articles again in the hopes they will resonate and be helpful to nurse leaders during these turbulent times. 

One I would like to recommend revisiting is the interview with Cy Wakeman, an expert on hardwiring accountability. She describes four elements of personal accountability: commitment, resilience, ownership and continuous learning. As nurses we are leading through the COVID-19 pandemic with an incredible sense of personal accountability. We are committed to obtain and advocate for results whether for the care and recovery of our patients or assisting them with a comfortable death. 

We have been resilient to manage through many challenges, including shortages in staffing, medications, ventilators or PPE. Many have worked until exhausted, only to come back the next day with the same energy and dedication. We have owned the consequences of our actions, demonstrating collaboration and striving always for excellence. 

And all the while we have continuously learned to improve how we deliver care during these challenging times. Through creativity, innovation and collaboration we have provided a path to future success. I have to believe it is no coincidence that 2020 is the Year of the Nurse. There is a reason that we are still the most trusted profession—we are accountable. Our patients, staff and community recognize it in all of us. Never have I ever been so proud to be a nurse.  

Florence too would be proud of our efforts. As we marked her 200th birthday this year, I believe she would be thrilled with the hope and care we are delivering during these uncertain times. 

About the Author

Mary Ann Fuchs, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, AONL Board President, vice president of patient care & system chief nurse executive, Duke University Health System, associate dean of clinical affairs, Duke University School of Nursing