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A few weeks ago, in a non-descript ballroom at a nice Boston hotel, I experienced what I can honestly say was one of the highlights of my career. I stood teary-eyed with a roomful of applauding, cheering nurses—many of whom may admit to being teary-eyed themselves—as we recognized some pretty amazing nurses.
It was the end of a beautiful, New England fall day and the sun lit up the view across the harbor of the city's skyline, but the pride and joy radiating inside that room eclipsed any expensive vista the city had to offer.
We were there for the presentation of the 2009 Nursing Image Awards, and the pride I saw on people's faces was mirrored by my own pride at having the opportunity to help judge the awards, which were presented on September 21.
I thought these awards were an interesting topic for the first issue of NursingLeaders, our new weekly e-newsletter. I've been covering nursing for more than four years for HCPro, Inc., HealthLeaders Media's parent company, and now I'll be offering my perspective on nursing issues and news in this weekly column. The e-newsletter will include original reporting and analysis, guest features, audio interviews, and links to interesting articles from HealthLeaders magazine and other news sources, all focused on issues that matter to nursing leaders.
The awards were conceived last year as a way to recognize nurses who embody a professional image of nursing. We sought nominations in two categories, leadership and clinical excellence, and healthcare professionals were invited to nominate nurse individuals or teams who personify a positive image of nursing in those categories.
We received around 200 nominations, awe-inspiring considering we required a 500-word essay, and I read every single one of them. Sitting at my desk, pouring over the 199th essay, something jumped out at me.
Along with hard data about the measurable outcomes nominees achieved—staff satisfaction levels up, turnover reduced, quality improvement initiatives succeeding—the essays contained themes about mentoring, learning, educating, and inspiring, which were repeated over and over again. And it made me think about how the presence of excellence can have a positive effect in any workplace. Think about when you first started out as a new nurse and watched the experienced nurse on your unit in awe, determined to one day be a skilled, competent nurse just like him or her. Or consider the inspirational leaders who you have sought to emulate and who have mentored you—whether they knew it or not—as you moved up the career ladder.
Dianne Aroh, RN, MS, NEA-BC, is one of those leaders. Aroh was the winner of the Image of Nursing in Leadership award and the nomination essay noted Aroh's abilities as a transformational leader, who increased staff nurse involvement in shared governance and fostered a transparent, dynamic culture of excellence, collaboration, harmony, and synergy across the entire organization.
Aroh is chief nursing officer at Hackensack (NJ) University Medical Center and the judges picked her for all the positive, measurable outcomes she had achieved, but also because she serves as a role model for promoting a collaborative, professional nursing environment.
"What an inspiration this leader is!' says judge Shelley Cohen, RN, BSN, CEN, president of Health Resources Unlimited, and co-author of the book The Image of Nursing: Perspectives on Shaping, Empowering, and Elevating the Nursing Profession, "Empowering nurses at the staff level not only promotes excellence in patient care, but role models excellence in leadership."