Having just returned from NASN 2018, my heart is full and my mind is overflowing with new learning and next steps. I want to thank the NASN leadership and staff for creating such a meaningful and well-designed conference. No detail was left out, including the graphic recorder who created a triplex series of illustrations from attendee input and suggestions. The hospitality of the Maryland School Nurses was palpable, plus they have a very cool state pin!
I was especially moved at the Affiliates Rally when Anupama Gowda, the State Director from Oklahoma, was overcome with emotion while sharing the struggle of her state’s fight for a fair contract. Lisa Kern, State Director from Florida, spoke passionately about the Parkland and Pulse mass shootings and how they have impacted her school community. Chris Amidon, Indiana’s exemplary State Director, shared her urgent message of gun safety after the school shooting in her state. The Texas school nurses were also affected by the recent school shooting on one of the final days of school before summer break. Challenges faced many affiliates this year and it was sobering to listen to the messages fraught with concern, passion and a need for group support.
There was a theme of advocacy and activism in many of the state messages this year. Clearly, school nurses around the country are finding their voices, as Nina Fekaris, NASN President, charged us with during her inaugural address last year in San Diego. This year, Nina’s message deepened the challenge, now that we have found our voice, we need to use it for the greater good. Nina’s message was both a call to action for our students and creating a safe space for school nursing voices from all perspectives on complex issues confronting our practice to be heard.
Some of the issues that are most pressing in our country today can be polarizing, but not if we keep the focus of what is best for children at the center of our discourse. School nurses have a collective shared value, that children should be safe, healthy and ready to learn. This is our “why” and as long as we keep this “why” at the heart of our actions, we are not polarized, but unified. Our methods may not be the same, some of us are more vocal or visible or even deemed radical, but our “why” is the shared value that unifies our purpose.
Attending NASN Conference changes you because it opens our eyes to a greater understanding of the scope and impact of the practice of school nursing on a grand scale. There is power being among 1200 colleagues, sharing stories of challenges and successes and celebrating our past as we catapult into our future. Let’s be relentless in telling our stories, about finding our own leadership, whether it is in our school communities or on a national stage. All of us are important parts to the greater collective that is school nursing. Lead with your “why”, with a deep understanding of the urgency of the work we do for our individual students and the school community on a population health level.
Our future is bright and in our capable hands, this I know for sure…