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President's Message

A Dream Come True

McMahon, Maria Faillace MSN, RN, PNP-PC/AC, TCRN

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doi: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000646
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Almost 17 years ago, I took the role of Trauma Program Manager of an American College of Surgeons (ACS) Level I Pediatric Trauma Center. One of the first things I did was to become a member of the Society of Trauma Nurses (STN). As an experienced critical care trauma nurse, I took the position with confidence but admittedly had a lot to learn. After joining STN, I suddenly had a network of like-minded colleagues, answers to questions, and much-needed and welcomed advice. My respect for the STN Board of Directors developed as I observed their mission and vision. Over the years, my admiration increased for the organization, which led me to aspire to be a Board member. I valued the organization as a resource and wanted to contribute to the continued success that was such a strong support for me in so many ways. Much thought was put into the decision to run for President. I wanted to be the leader that the STN and its members deserved. To ensure my commitment was without distraction, I chose to run, so if elected, I would become president immediately following our ACS trauma reverification site visit. I was honored to be President of the STN organization I had so admired; it was a dream come true.

As STN President, I had a vision for how to best meet member needs, and I was excited about the many opportunities the role afforded, such as representing the organization at national and international conferences. I was fortunate and everything was going as planned. Then there was talk of a virus, which turned into a pandemic, and life as we knew it quickly changed. As trauma nurses, we prepare, anticipate, follow guidelines, work as a team, and evaluate outcomes to provide the best possible care for the injured. These practices, along with the ability to pivot, adapt, remain calm in stressful situations, and demonstrate compassion, have been challenged in ways we could never have imagined. Delivery of care changed—how we approach patients and manage their care; how we interface with families; and even how we interact with colleagues.

All in-person activities were canceled, including in-person ACS trauma site visits. The last 2 years have been unprecedented times. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) upended life as we knew it.

As I prepared to transition into the role of STN President, the thought of giving a speech in front of 500 audience members at TraumaCon, STN's flagship event, was a little daunting. Ultimately, the handing over of the gavel was done in absentia, and the President's Message was given at the virtual conference 1 year later (March 2021) from the comfort of my home. Nothing happened in the usual way. I learned how to lead and communicate differently with the STN Board of Directors and our members. Town hall meetings were initiated to give members an opportunity to express themselves, hear others' experiences, and, most importantly, feel connected. Retreats, conferences, meetings, and even Lobby Day transformed into a virtual format.

Then, our Pediatric Trauma Center was selected to be the first pilot pediatric center to participate in a virtual ACS trauma reverification (as if an ACS trauma reverification is not stressful enough without the unknown of a new format)! There were a lot of lessons learned from the experience and it reinforced my belief that trauma nurses excel in high pressure situations and environments. I was fortunate to be able to share that experience and help other trauma centers navigate through the process.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only had a global impact on health, safety, and psychological concerns but also produced a tremendous economic hardship and uncertainty for STN and its members. For STN, the cancellation of TraumaCon in 2020 brought financial losses. A recalibrated, dynamic digital event provided financial stability for 2021 and seeded the opportunity for us to be together again in person for TraumaCon 2022. As many of us have discovered in our own institutions over the past couple of years, STN benefited from preparation, detailed practices, and time-proven processes. This gave the Board and staff the ability and the confidence to align member needs with available resources for the most effective pathway to sustainability, even during the toughest times.

In addition to the stress of living through a pandemic, significant events brought racism and social injustices to the forefront, necessitating self-examination, difficult conversations, and confronting unconscious bias. Admittedly, I did not and cannot truly and deeply understand how racial inequities make people feel. I believe, just like in the clinical setting, we can and should always learn, especially from our inadequacies and failures, by opening our mind and heart to new ideas. Listening to others' stories and perspectives can help to be open to another's paradigms and experiences and encourage new understandings. The STN began the journey nearly 2 years ago by hosting a town hall session, titled Diversity, Inclusion, and Health Equity (July 30, 2020), to open the discussion and listen.

Through self-evaluation as an organization, STN recognized we did not know if we were meeting the needs of the totality of our membership and the trauma community. The Board took a hard look and realized the Organization was falling short in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Members of the Board committed to make DEI a priority by making it a strategic and operational priority in all areas. A DEI pillar was added to the strategic plan, and DEI goals were added to every other strategic pillar. The STN DEI Committee was formed in 2021, and the membership was surveyed to get a better understanding of gaps and to determine future initiatives and ensure that STN goals, actions, activities, and investments would align with this mission. We are listening.

As I reflect on the last 2 years, I have learned much about the STN organization and myself. The essence of the Organization, as it is for a trauma nurse, is to pivot and adapt when expectations change, to make the most of a challenging situation, and to learn from experiences to achieve the best outcomes. Through good times and bad, STN always remains true to its mission, vision, and its members. The STN Board of Directors is committed to responsible financial stewardship and risk management that will enable it to continue to meet the needs of its members and achieve its vision to be the premier trauma nursing organization across the continuum.

Together, trauma nurses support each other, are flexible and resilient, and persevere through adversity. I have learned this firsthand during my presidency. Unexpectedly, I lived through a very difficult personal situation, and my STN colleagues and friends were there for me. The support, as it was when I first became a member in 2006, was unwavering. This great trauma nursing organization has a solid foundation. We've been challenged but continue to stand strong! I am honored to have been STN President and proud to be a part of a group of like-minded people bound by a common goal and passion for what we do and for each other.

I finish my last President's Message with the same advice as the first message 2 years ago,

When you find yourself in a position to help someone, be happy and feel blessed because God is answering that person's prayer through you. Our purpose on earth is not to get lost in the dark but to be a light to others so that they may find a way through us. (Alberto Casing)

Always let your light shine! (McMahon, 2020).

REFERENCE

McMahon M. (2020). Let your light shine. Journal of Trauma Nursing, 27(4), 191–192. https://doi.org/10.1097/jtn.0000000000000512
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