I attended the Australian College of Nursing’s (ACN) National Nursing Forum (NNF2018) at the end of August 2018. My reason for attending was that I needed a boost of inspiration and enthusiasm for my chosen profession. Getting to the Gold Coast from Tennant Creek was expensive and time-consuming, the hire car and accommodation added to the cost, and taking 5 days off work left a mountain of catch-up when I returned. So was it worth it? Absolutely!
There were many things about NNF2018 that met my goal of being inspired. Perhaps the most significant was the contribution of a group of ENLs (Emerging Nurse Leaders) who are sponsored by ACN to develop their leadership capabilities. One session was a discussion about the new Next-Gen Nurses Community of Interest (COI). The young nurses involved in this session were articulate, passionate, fearless, and focussed. They tackled issues head-on, and responded very well to any problems raised by dinosaurs like myself and other older colleagues. It was incredibly inspiring to see this group of nurses take control of their future and their profession, and left me feeling that nursing will be in good hands when we retire.
A key focus of NNF2018 was “Diversity and Difference” and one speaker talked about gender imbalance in nursing. She noted that the proportion of men in nursing has been about 10% for several decades, and these men have often had to deal with negative stereotypes. Some might say, “Serve them right, welcome to what women have had to put up with for millennia.” This attitude demeans the caring nature of nursing, and justifies one bad situation by referencing another. One young man in the audience commented that is is time that society in general and the nursing profession in particular recognises that it is “OK for men to care.” The point is that being caring is still often seen as a weak and undesirable trait.
Another speaker (who was not a nurse) shared his personal insights into nursing based on family connections and personal experience of healthcare. He graphically described the work of nurses who staff our Emergency Departments, dealing with people who are often not on their best behaviour. And a former emergency nurse, his stories resonated with me as he shared his experience of seeing ED nurses being screamed at, spat on, abused and assaulted. He noted that nurses did not give up and run away, but “held the line and kept on caring” because all people need good quality compassionate health care. I had never been so proud to be a nurse! We do need to care for each other and ourselves through, because it takes a toll when you “hold the line”.
My other goal in attending NNF2018 was to be encouraged in my further career development. One very useful session involved a kind of speed-dating with leaders. Participants were given a block of 5 minutes to connect with a leader and hear their advice and encouragement regarding an aspect of leadership. It was a challenge to encapsulate a lifetime of leadership advice into 5 minutes, but the leaders did an excellent job. I focussed on my looming choice between further development as a nurse educator or as a senior manager, as I have come to a point of divergence where a choice must be made. The outcome of these short sharp discussions with recognised leaders was that I realised that while I really enjoy both education and management, I am passionate about education.
I was very pleased and proud to have my eldest daughter Laura with me at NNF2018. She is now an RN working in a small remote Emergency Department, and we were able to have great conversations about our experiences at the forum. It was encouraging to see her networking with colleagues and speaking confidently and articulately with established leaders in the nursing profession. Laura is hoping to be accepted into ACN’s Emerging Nurse Leader program in 2019. She epitomises the next-gen nurse.