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Moments: Finding Passion and Purpose

Gould, Kathleen, Ahern, RN, MSN, PhD

Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing: May/June 2018 - Volume 37 - Issue 3 - p 119
doi: 10.1097/DCC.0000000000000303

Kathleen Ahern Gould, RN, MSN, PhD Editor-in-Chief, Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing

The author has disclosed that she has no significant relationship with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

This year, you may attend an educational conference, join a professional organization, or experience professional growth at work. Often, these experiences are filled with “moments” that create change. Dan and Chip Heath1 tell us that once you realize how important “moments” can be, it's easy to sport opportunities to shape them. The Heaths discuss finding purpose and passion through life experiences. Often, these powerful emotions are embedded in small moments.

Purpose, they explain, is defined as the sense that you are contributing to something bigger than yourself. This feeling is found with a group, an idea, and an organization. Passion is more personal. It is a feeling of excitement and enthusiasm about your own work. Although we are fortunate when we have both, purpose trumps passion. Purpose is something you can share and cultivate. It unites people, gives meaning to work or tasks, and defines “what matters” to you.1

This spring, you may be attending the annual National Teaching Institute sponsored by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. If so, there will be many “moments” that will inform and inspire you. You will feel many emotions: pride—to be a critical care nurse, wonder—at the depth of information and knowledge that surrounds you. You will feel enlightened, motivated, and elevated. This is what the incredible journey called professional growth feels like. It is also the process of discovering purpose and passion.

Many things have shaped and informed my practice and my professional evolution. Each step has been a welcome surprise, often an unexpected turn, always filled with remarkable opportunities: surrounded by friends and colleagues who have enriched my life and work. It all started in Boston—at an American Association of Critical-Care Nurses National Teaching Institute. My manager arranged conference time and financial support, allowing me to attend. In her wisdom, she knew that there would be moments that would inspire, excite, and move me forward.

I heard lectures from leaders in critical care, spoke to editors from the journals I read, and met nurses with similar fears, hopes, and concerns. The crowded exhibit area was exciting to explore. Some of my most inspiring moments occurred as I poured over stacks of books and journals, investigated new equipment, and talked to representatives from hospitals and universities across the country. Other moments encouraged me to prepare for the certification (CCRN) exam. Moments shared with resident nurse leaders inspired me to become active in my local chapter. In each encounter or “moment,” I felt supported by other professionals who offered to keep in touch, guided me to resources, and encouraged engagement in the professional organization.

Recently, I reflected my professional opportunities and experiences as I read the words of Tracey Coventry,2 as she described her evolution as a nurse leader. Coventry says,

Who am I as a nurse and leader? I am the sum of the values I hold and the attitudes and behaviors I have witnessed and embraced. My achievements and growth through a variety of situations over many years have led me to where I am today, and my story reveals a more complete picture of the nurse within.2

This short statement reflects not one occasion, opportunity, or specific event. However, it is a rich description of the many moments that have shaped her career. Her description is filled with passion and purpose.

Brief encounters, even small moments, can change lives. Such moments are clustered into professional conferences and personal encounters. As you engage in some of these professional opportunities, recognize the moments that inspire you and embrace emotions that motivate and elevate you. If you are fortunate, you will find both purpose and passion throughout the journey.

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1. Heath C, Heath D. The Power of Moments. New York: Simon & Schuster; 2017.
2. Coventry T. Who am I as a nurse and a leader? Reflections in Nursing Leadership. New York: Sigma Theta Tau; 2017.
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