Editor-in-Chief, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, New York, N.Y.
Doing the right thing is always right, and doing something is better than doing nothing.
I love this year's theme from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses' president Clareen Wiencek: “It Matters.” If you belong to that organization, you've probably read her monthly messages, which resonate with what's really important to clinical nurses. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement has a related vision—“What Matters”—focusing on engaging patients and families. What matters to you?
Finding out what counts is key, whether for patients, staff, or colleagues. Sometimes it turns out to be something that doesn't really seem important to you, but it does to someone else. What you do can make a difference, even when you aren't trying, or when you go unnoticed for a long time or remain unacknowledged. Have you ever seen someone for the first time in years (maybe you don't even remember them) and they proceed to tell you how your advice completely turned their professional career around? That career discussion you had about school, job choices, or relocation may not have seemed like much to you, but it mattered to them.
Occasionally, you may wonder if what you're doing makes a difference, whether it's slogging away at e-mail, rounding, writing thank-you cards, prepping for a council meeting, or any of the other numerous activities we complete every day. The truth is that you may never know, but doing the right thing is always right, and doing something is better than doing nothing. Gandhi said something very similar, “You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing, there will be no result.” Maybe it's more of a physics lesson: Every action has a reaction.
What we do always has an effect on ourselves and others. Reflecting on that gives importance to our choices, our actions, and our work. I'm sure you can remember teachers, leaders, mentors, and patients who've influenced you in both little and big ways. Although it may not always be positive, we learn from everything.
We can be scientific at this point and note that evidence-based practice is the gold standard of mattering. Whether it's clinical, educational, or leadership practice, making a difference is more guaranteed when you have the evidence behind you. The future is bright when what matters to us is exemplary professional practice, continuous learning, and full engagement, as well as eliminating nonvalue-added (“not-mattering”) work whenever we can.
Is joy essential? It is to Clareen Wiencek and to me. If what you're doing brings joy to yourself and others, it definitely matters. We're leaning quite a bit to the transformational side with this discussion, so let's not forget that outcomes and accountability also matter to everyone in a 360-degree way.
“You never know” often refers to unlikely scenarios, such as winning the lottery. In the case of “everything matters,” it means that you may never know the effect of your actions, but you can count on a reaction from someone, somewhere, somehow. At the beginning of each day, reflect on what you're doing, and at the end of every day, acknowledge yourself. Everything matters!