Head of nurses association talks goals and motivation
AACN’s president leads group that represents critical care RNs
Linda Childers
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With more than 100,000 members and more than 200 chapters in the U.S., the
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
represents the interests of more than 500,000 acute and critical care nurses. spoke with AACN
President Christine Schulman, MS, RN, CNS, CCRN-K,
a critical care and trauma clinical nurse specialist at Legacy Health in Portland, Ore., about the organization’s future goals and how the nonprofit works to support nurses.
Schulman, RN
What are the goals of AACN and how do they apply to nurses in this specialty?
AACN is steadfast in our goal to ensure
critical care nurses
have the knowledge and influence to drive excellence in patient care. Our support can be in helping nurses develop ways to drive change through resources, educational programs, certification and more. We also help nurses build resiliency skills because this can be physically and emotionally taxing work.
How are things changing for critical care nurses in terms of career opportunities, training and certification?
One of the changes we’re seeing is that it isn’t just within hospital walls. Critical care is needed in homes, long term acute care facilities and through telehealth. Critical care isn’t merely a place — it is a thing that we do. Certification remains as important as ever and is the backbone of excellence for nurses caring for acutely and critically ill patients. Certification offers the opportunity for nurses to validate their knowledge and expertise — for themselves, their patients and their employers. We also offer
CCRN-K (critical care) and PCCN-K (progressive care) credentials
to acknowledge and validate a growing number of acute and critical care nurses who are shifting to roles where they influence patient outcomes by sharing their unique clinical knowledge and expertise rather than providing care directly.
Is there an effort to encourage RNs who work in critical care to become advanced practice nurses?
Many nurses are choosing to become APRNs, and that trend is likely to continue. We advocate for all healthcare professionals to practice to the full extent of their education and training, certification and licensure. We believe in the value of continually learning and applying that at the bedside too.
How has technology changed critical care nurses’ roles?
It’s exciting to see so many advances in technology that influence critical care, such as minimally invasive surgeries and life-sustaining treatments. Technological advances that improve patient safety, like medication bar code scanning and smart IV pumps, also save time. Minimally invasive monitoring devices give us critical information about patient hemodynamics with far less risk. The ideal is to use technology to support the care we provide, not as a replacement and not at the cost of connecting with our patients.
Are there a lot of job opportunities for critical care nurses?
Even though the demand for primary care is projected to grow, there will always be very sick patients who require hospitalization.
Critical and acute care nursing positions
can be found in hospitals and throughout the healthcare system, including long-term acute care facilities and tele-ICUs. The demand for knowledgeable and passionate nurses is growing. And there is an enormous need to educate the next generation of healthcare providers by serving as faculty members at colleges and universities.
Are there intangible benefits nurses credit to being AACN members?
We are a community that provides ongoing support as you grow and develop in your professional journey. It is inspiring to be around like-minded people who share common professional interests and serve as role models and mentors. Upon joining AACN, a nurse’s professional journey can be enhanced by being part of a chapter, attending events, submitting abstracts, volunteering, being published and receiving meaningful recognition. When you’re ready for us, we’re ready for you. AACN is here to touch your passion and give meaning to other parts of your work.
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Linda Childers is a freelance writer.