Nurse Advocacy: Taking a Seat at the Table
Jesse Kennedy, RN, likes to keep busy. We last spoke to Jesse in 2013, when he was finishing up his term as the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) president. Since then, he has launched his career as a critical care nurse and served on several advisory council groups at his hospital. Additionally, in 2014, he was elected to the American Nurses Association (ANA) Board of Directors as Director at Large, Recent Graduate.
Serving on the ANA Board has been amazing! I have received fantastic support, professional development, and mentorship from my fellow ANA board and leaders around the nation. While I was certainly nervous about making the leap to the national, professional level, I can confidently say that NSNA prepared me well to hit the ground running! In 2015, I was re-elected to the ANA Board of Directors for a second term.
Professional organizations offer nurses the ability to truly advocate for their patients, their profession, and themselves. Advocacy cannot stop at the bedside, it must continue in the boardroom and in the halls of legislature. Specialty organizations provide a very important augmentation because they allow you to advocate much more specifically to your particular patient population and area of the profession.
I cannot stress enough just how much NSNA and ANA have helped me to grow, inspired me, and enabled me to advocate to the level our patients deserve. Nursing is the most trusted profession because of our advocacy and dedication, and it is our responsibility to create a better nation through policy and education!
Since my term as NSNA president, I have been busy! After completing the NCLEX, I started my career as a registered nurse in the Float Pool at Peace Health, Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, Ore. In the Float Pool, I gained a great deal of experience working in the Inpatient Surgical, Orthopedics, Medical, Clinical Decision, and Neurology units. When the Float Pool was heading towards a reorganization, I immediately applied for and was elected to the Float Pool Reorganization Team. The reorganization efforts gave me a great deal of insight as to the inherent difficulties and opportunities that exist in providing safe and timely nursing care in the hospital setting.
In 2015, I ran for and was elected to my unit’s Shared Governance Advocacy Council. Shared governance made it even more clear to me that if we are going to empower nurses to provide the best care possible, nurses need to be at the decision-making table offering our expertise and patient-centered focus.
Later, I applied for and was selected to join the first Critical Care Float Pool training program, which served the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, the Intensive Care Unit, and the Emergency Department. This critical care training program offered me classroom education and direct experience on these high-intensity units. Ultimately, I chose to focus my time in the ICU and have been honing my professional skills here since.
The most important thing for student nurses to know is that making measurable and reachable goals is important. When you look at nursing education in whole, it can seem daunting, but if you break it down, it is immensely more manageable and exciting!
It is also important to maintain relationships with your cohort and with those you meet because that support group will help to navigate the road ahead! The most important thing for new nurses to know is that all of us are in this together. Looking for ways to work together, for similarities instead of differences, and for opportunities to grow will create a work environment that fosters positivity and will enable the best patient care possible! Never stop learning or developing new skills.
The only way for nursing to avoid silos of information and the loss of the amazing wealth of knowledge that experienced nurses have is through direct mentorship! Mentorship also allows for transition of leadership and provides new nurses with the skills needed to navigate professional committees, staffing difficulties, and the boardroom.
The most useful advice I have received is from ANA Hall of Famer, Dr. Robert Piemonte, Ed.D., RN, CAE, FAAN. Dr. Piemonte told me that nursing will always offer challenges, but also amazing opportunities. The thing that will make the difference in these situations is the ability to see the opportunity and to seize it. The only way to truly see these opportunities is through continued education and professional development.
Nursing is more than a job, it is a lifestyle that is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, commitment to social equity, and improving the health of every person on this planet. Always strive for education, even if it seems out of reach, because you will never be entirely prepared, you have to take that leap and trust your dedication to advancing humanity to get you through!