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Taking risks to protect our profession. (President's Message).

This is the mantra of Jill Gould, who as a 29-year old mother of five left her job as a secretary, went on to complete medical school, earn a master's degree in public health and become one of the world's first women forensic pathologists (Germer, 2001). Had she not embraced risk and persevered, she would still be where she was at age 29--behind a desk working as a secretary. While this was fine for some, it definitely was not where Jill wanted to be. She was an ordinary person with extraordinary determination and willingness to take risk, and in the end it paid huge dividends.

More Inspirational Stories

Sheila Coates

For 25 years Sheila Coates was a wife and homemaker. Fifteen years after being challenged by her sister, she is one of America's leading advocates for African-American families, the founder of Black Women United for Action. She founded the organization after she went back to school full time to prepare herself for the challenge of making a difference in something she believed in. Coates credits her success to finally knowing what she wanted. She firmly believes that every human being on this earth has a purpose and that one can do difficult, seemingly impossible things, if one believes strongly enough (Germer, 2001). Coates is an ordinary person with extraordinary passion and belief.

Cammi Granato

Cammi Granato, captain of the 1998 women's U.S. Olympic hockey team feels that you should never let others limit you. If she had she never would have played hockey in the Olympics. She states that life is all about passion and challenging oneself and that success comes down to endurance. She believes that when exhausted, to succeed, your mind has to take over. Granato is an ordinary person with extraordinary endurance.

Leone Good

Leone Good, who is 88 years old and has worked for 72 years, symbolizes two trends in America: the growing population of elderly Americans and the growing number of elderly workers. She loves to work and still works 4 days a week at the Morris Living Centre in Marietta, Georgia, where many of the residents are younger than she is. She mops, does laundry, makes beds, and cares for the residents 4 days a week. Good started her work career on the family farm and took a risk in those days for a woman when she began to sell magazine subscriptions and peddled books door-to-door along country roads. Eventually she went to work in the nursing home industry where she remains. Leone Good is an ordinary person with extraordinary work ethics and passion for people (Atlanta Journal and Constitution, September 2, 2001).

Wanda Cardwell

And then there is Wanda Cardwell who died last May at the age of 43 from lupus and kidney disease after a 20-year battle. She missed graduation at Georgia State University by 2 months. She would have graduated with her master's degree in social work had she lived. She had hoped after graduation to help others cope with kidney disease. She struggled so long and hard to complete her degree that her classmates put a tassel in her hands in her coffin because they figured she earned it. She had. Wanda Cardwell was an ordinary person with extraordinary tenacity and inner strength.

What Does This Have to Do With Us?

Some of life's greatest insights come from studying the success of others. Fortunately, there are many successes to model oneself or one's profession after! These are not just "nice" motivational stories. They are important because they illustrate key points. They illustrate that ordinary people can do extraordinary things as well as the key traits of success--determination, risk-taking, passion, endurance, perseverance, exemplary work ethics, tenacity and inner strength. These aren't the only factors in success, but they are important ones. They are also characteristics that we must have or develop if we are to protect our turf and our role in health care's future.

Nursing is challenged as never before. Our practitioners are aging, our numbers don't meet the growing demand for our services, and young people are showing a decreasing interest in nursing as a career. Our nephrology nursing specialty isn't faring much better. Antidotal stories about difficulties in finding registered nurses, high attrition rates as current licensed workers burn out and leave, as well as growing frustration with the work environment are increasing. Even more alarming are the discussions about what areas of nursing practice we can give away to lighten the workload on registered nurses, particularly in the outpatient dialysis setting.

The overall tone at times seems one of hopelessness, hopelessness that we can and will attract and retain qualified, committed people. Hopelessness that our environment can be satisfying and professionally rewarding. Hopelessness that we can maintain a level of quality care that is satisfactory to all stakeholders.

How Do We Overcome This?

To succeed in protecting and preserving our profession and specialty, I believe that we are going to have to harness every extraordinary characteristic that we can, but above all, we are going to have to take calculated risks.

This is easier said than done, however, because women fear risk and 94.6% of current nurses are women (National Sample Survey of RNs, 2000). Women avoid risk because they fear making mistakes according to psychology professor Carol Dweck at Columbia University (Germer, 2001). She goes on to say that women are wary of risk because as girls we are taught not to act out and to avoid criticism. We were praised for our intelligence and good behavior. As adults, however, this behavior becomes a problem because life rewards risk-taking and resilience. Ultimately, to succeed, nurses are going to have to overcome the fear of risk-taking and begin to take well thought-out risks. There are many opportunities for wise risk-taking and these include:

* Studies to measure nursing's impact on patient and business outcomes;

* Thinking out of the box to develop, implement, and measure new staffing and care models;

* Foregoing personal comfort and convenience to volunteer for work-related groups that are addressing workplace issues;

* Fighting for Magnet Hospital conditions in outpatient settings so a professionally rewarding work environment will attract and retain nurses; and

* Speaking out in a thoughtful and responsible way on workplace issues, professional practice topics, the role and place of the nurse on both the clinical and executive health care team, and the positives of nursing as a caller.

Doing Nothing Is Not An Option!

There is no way that we will know everything that we need to know in advance. Nor can we be assured of absolute success. We may even be criticized. There is even the possibility that we may fail in some of our efforts. But one thing is for sure as Jill Gould said, "If you aren't doing something, you are doing nothing."

With so much at stake, doing nothing is not even an option! It is time to take calculated risks to ensure that the American public has access to quality nursing care!


Germer, F. (2001). Hard won wisdom. New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

National Sample Survey of RNs. (2000) Washington, DC: HRSA. Available at

ANNA's Mission

ANNA will advance nephrology nursing practice and positively influence outcomes for patients with kidney or other disease processes requiring replacement therapies through advocacy, scholarship, and excellence.
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Author:Wick, Gail
Publication:Nephrology Nursing Journal
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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