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Winning Combinations: How Dermatology Nurses are Like Olympic Athletes

Borger, Angela

Journal of the Dermatology Nurses' Association: May/June 2014 - Volume 6 - Issue 3 - p 111–112
doi: 10.1097/JDN.0000000000000039




For those of you who have been readers for awhile, I know I have mentioned before the delayed production schedule for the Journal of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association (JDNA). Mind you, this schedule is not unique to the JDNA but is rather a common feature in publishing. The reason I explain this is that, while you are all likely reading this editorial near end of June, I sit here writing during the 2014 Winter Olympics. In case some of you do not know, I am a huge Olympics fan! I cross out those dates in my calendar, decline invitations from friends and family, make plans for minimal engagement with the outside world (alas, I do keep going to work), and fully delve into watching and participating in my own way, with the Olympics at hand.

So, this got me to thinking this year. Hear me out, but I think one can make the analogy that dermatology nurses are like Olympic athletes in many ways. We are alike in that both groups of people are extremely passionate and dedicated to their calling, both the athletes and the nurses take years to master their craft or skill, and both groups are extremely enthusiastic about winning. What, you say, nurses winning? Well, let’s agree that most Olympic athletes are working to win a medal and to be the very best in their sport. In our case as nurses, don’t you think that winning for many of us means catching a dermatology diagnosis early, helping maintain patient safety, helping to coordinate patient care, or educating our patients in a way that makes their skin health better? And that all of us are trying to be the very best in dermatology nursing and as dermatology nurses? I think we all are, and that in part, is why we are all members of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association: we are hoping to be part of an organization that helps to train us to be excellent at what we do and how we do it. When I look at the analogy this way, I have to admit that, although clearly the mechanisms of training are different for the athletes and us as nurses, the outcomes are the same. Athletes study past races and past performances; nurses study disease and pathophysiology and the ways that these affect our patients. We both are striving for excellence in what we do and to be the most proficient we can be; we just approach our training a bit differently.

Nurses and Olympic athletes are also alike in other ways. For example, we both have big supporters and fans. Granted, we do not always get to be on the cover of a cereal box, but when one of my “fans,” a patient or family member, comes to thank me or my staff or practice, the appreciation means just as much to me as any cereal box cover. In addition, we are alike in that we each have plans that enable us to achieve excellence in our discipline. Olympic athletes have special diets, special trainers, and special exercises to help develop them during their journey to excellence. Well, we have similar support systems to help us develop our excellence: teachers and educators, expert clinicians, and passionate leaders.

One of the television vignettes during the Olympics discussed the process of becoming a world class athlete, and often in the commentary, I would hear observations that would allude to the fact that, although a particular athlete was not the very best this year, he or she certainly is one to watch in 4 years. Four more years of becoming an expert, and 4 more years of training; for many of us as nurses, doesn’t the phrase “going from being a novice to an expert” come to mind? For many of us, our dermatology careers will likely be longer than that of an Olympic athlete. So, I ask you, how will you continue to train as a dermatology nurse so that, in 4 years (or 40), you are more of an expert, someone whom we can look at as being a world class dermatology nurse? For many of us, that means continuing our education both in an academic setting and in the form of dedicated continuing education. For some of us, that might mean stretching our boundaries and presenting at a conference or giving a lecture in your community, and for others, that might mean broadening your involvement with dermatology nursing leadership or publication. Whatever the path you choose, I am sure your personal and professional dedication to dermatology nursing will lead you to new experiences and new levels of professional expertise.

For what it’s worth, I wish I could put all of you as dermatology nurses on a pedestal and give you an award to celebrate the world class excellence you bring to dermatology nursing and to our patients. In my mind, you all deserve a gold medal!

Another, but related, note, by now, you all know that talking about skin cancer and sunscreen is one of my favorite topics. I couldn’t help but notice that, during my time watching the Olympics, no one talked about outdoor sun safety. Granted, unlike the summer Olympics, the winter Olympians and spectators are much more covered up. Moreover, I did see use of sunglasses or goggles, but I bet these also helped with performance. That being said, we all know about the risk of UV radiation reflecting from the snow, for both the athletes and the spectators. So, with true selflessness in mind (if you believe that), I volunteer to personally attend the next Olympic event with sunscreen samples in hand and to be ready to talk about the global impact of UV radiation on our skin and its role in the development of skin cancer. Does anyone wish to join me? All we need is a good sponsor and about a gazillion samples of sunscreen!

I know we’ve talked about it before, but just a reminder that our Publisher, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, has committed to giving JDNA writers three Writing Awards for 2014. These awards are designed to be a small motivator to encourage dermatology nurse authors, both novice and experienced alike. Like last year, the three writing categories will be The Best Clinical Article, Best Research Article, and the Most Viewed on Article. Please consider publishing in the JDNA so that you, too, are eligible for consideration for one of these awards.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Angela L. Borger


Copyright © 2014 by the Dermatology Nurses' Association.