During the week of April 9-13, 2014, the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) hosted its 62nd Annual Convention at Nashville, Tennessee. The event was set at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, which is only a few minutes from Downtown Nashville. The ambiance in the convention center was filled with energy by over 3,000 student nurses and nursing faculty advisors. The theme of this year’s conference was “Strong Voices & Big Dreams: Influencing the Future.” With over 60,000 student nurse memberships nationwide, the NSNA invited nursing students from coast to coast to realize their dreams and potential as future nursing leaders. It was such a unique experience to sit next to nursing students from California, Kentucky, and Florida, because all regions of the United States simultaneously were represented at one location.
There was one session that sincerely changed how I view my potential as a nurse leader. At the opening ceremony on April 9, 2014, the NSNA invited Gloria Gerraro Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN (Dean and Professor at the College of Nursing and Health Professionals at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) to be the keynote speaker. She walked on stage with much grace and humility. She began with a statement, “I decided to not talk about the usual nursing convention topics on leadership and networking today.” Rather, she titled her presentation as, “What is Your Hunch? Ideas that Changed Nursing and Healthcare.” She wanted to redirect every student nurses’ attention towards a topic on how to critically think. Dr. Gerraro started off by giving us examples of famous nurses from the past, such as Loretta Ford who co-founded the first nurse practitioner program and nurse theorist Virginia Henderson who challenged nurses to focus their research on promoting better patient safety and quality. Furthermore, Dr. Gerraro emphasized the qualities that every nurse leader has in common. She articulated that nurses need to be day dreamers even in the presence of criticism, be persistent doers who love to work hard, unwilling settlers who pursue for the highest excellence, and humble contributors who do not care about personal prestige. It dawned on me that nurses are leaders because they improve medical practice by learning how to critically think. Nurses must learn to ask why and conduct nursing research to know how to solve a problem. In the end of the speech, Dr. Gerraro reminded the audience that in the real world, it can be hard to pursue your hunches when your ideas are against the norm. However, she challenged this notion by providing a counterargument. She argued that there is a reason why nursing students may already have a hunch or question. Even after just one clinical rotation, nursing students need to remember to just go for it, do something, take a chance, and get captivated on solving a problem.
It was amazing to receive so much support and encouragement from the nursing community. The next two days were filled with individual workshops, NCLEX reviews, a big career exhibition where many hospitals and colleges showcased their organizations, and endless conversations with nursing students who were just as involved as me in their state chapters. As the president of the Massachusetts Student Nurses’ Association (MaSNA) for the next academic school year, I look forward to follow Dr. Gerraro’s motto by being a brave critical thinker. By coming up with a vision with the MaSNA Board of Directors and learning how to better advocate for college and university Student Nurses’ Association (SNA) chapters in Massachusetts, I want MaSNA to provide nursing students with opportunities to explore what is beyond the classroom setting. By encouraging nursing students to pursue their hunches, MaSNA could be not only a motivator but also provide skills and resources for nursing students to get closer to their dreams and aspirations. My entire experience at the NSNA Conference has given me so many ideas on how to help MaSNA become an organization that can better serve Massachusetts’ student nurses. Lastly, I look forward to spend my senior year at Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing dreaming big and inspiring a younger generation of trailblazers.