In this inaugural editorial as the NP Editor-in-Chief of Clinician Reviews, I would like to expand on the July message of my colleague Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA-C, who wrote of the importance of preceptors. Equally important, I believe, is the need to “give back”—not only to our professions but to society as a whole.
But first, I want to say how honored I am to be asked to rejoin the Clinician Reviews team. Some of you may remember my column, “Onieal’s Observations,” which used to run in this journal’s former sister publication, Clinician News. Now I get to offer more observations, but from a higher vantage point, so to speak, with somewhat more responsibility than before. I am looking forward to working with the Clinician Reviews team and with Randy. We are committed to bringing you the most up-to-date and most relevant clinical and professional information that will improve your practice and the lives of your patients. Having both a PA and an NP Editor-in-Chief demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the journal to advocate for both professions.
What, you may ask, has that got to do with giving back? Let me explain.
Perhaps you saw the movie Pay It Forward, about a schoolboy who is tasked with developing a plan that will change the world through direct action. In his July editorial, Randy recalled the “dedication demonstrated by physicians and NP and PA preceptors.” That was a direct action. But giving back involves more than that—it extends beyond the classroom and clinical setting and into the communities where we live, work, and play.
I had a friend whose entire adult life was dedicated to helping those less fortunate than she was. She organized walks for hunger, Easter dinner preparations for a homeless shelter, and activities to fund residences for homeless elders. She was a role model for community activism. That was her giving back. Her passing left me with a sense of obligation to continue, in some way, the commitment that she had to improving the community.
Giving back is a broad concept and, as such, presents endless opportunities for us to repay a debt or show respect for the person or persons who took the time to help us and enabled us to reap a benefit. In my early days as an NP and as one of the founders of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, it was my friend Dave Mittman, a PA, who introduced me to the world of physician assistants. We both worked to improve communications and help dispel the myth that PAs and NPs are rivals. Having the good fortune now to serve as the NP Editor-in-Chief of Clinician Reviews provides me with an opportunity to give back to Dave and all the PAs with whom I have had the honor of working as a colleague.
I owe a debt of gratitude to those people in my life who helped me grow as a nurse and an NP. Many helped me in my clinical practice; others helped me through nursing school, my NP program, graduate school, and doctoral studies. There were many occasions, I’m sure, when my needs were excessive, but these friends and supporters never hesitated to answer my calls and were always generous with their time. I know I always thanked them, but my way of showing respect and appreciation for the time and effort they gave me is to offer my help to the next generation of nurses and nurse practitioners. I do this by serving on the faculty at the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, in its Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
In addition, I always try to say yes whenever one of my colleagues on the faculty at another institution asks me to give a lecture. Some of my friends have children, a spouse, or a significant other attending nursing or nurse practitioner school this year. They all have my phone number for those times when the inevitable fear and frustration can only be assuaged by talking with someone who has been through it. I haven’t had a call from any PA students—yet.
What about you? If teaching doesn’t interest you, think about how often you’re contacted to support someone’s walk in a fundraising event, a race, or a golf tournament to benefit a cause. Of course you contribute, but what else could you do? How many times have you seen students collecting donations to support their team events? Have you ever thought about doing something more proactive to help them out than putting spare change in a bucket? What about offering some health-related service?
Years ago, a coworker and I were asked if we knew someone who could do the sports clearance physicals for a junior high football team. A local pediatrician used to do this and was paid for it; whatever money the team had left went toward buying new uniforms or equipment. The players still had to raise money through bake sales and similar events. We got our health center administration to allow us to use a wing of the center to do the physicals. Parents paid as usual, but we refused payment, so all the money went to the team. It was a rewarding experience, and it gave us the opportunity to expose the students and parents to the NP profession.
I have several friends who volunteer at camps or serve as coaches for sports teams. One volunteers his services as an athletic trainer for a high school soccer team, years after his daughter stopped playing.
We have all benefited in some way from another person taking the time to help us. And we all benefit from the public services in our community—our schools, the parks, the police and fire departments. Now it is time for us to do likewise. Pick a cause and make it your own. Set aside the time to give back in honor of someone, as thanks to someone, or as the return on that investment society made so that you could be who you are today.
Remember that credit card commercial that cites several purchases and their cost and then notes that having that particular card to pay for them is “priceless”? Well, the reward for giving back, no matter how you do it, has nothing to do with money. It is the knowledge that you had a positive impact on someone else, that you made a difference in his or her life.
And that, dear colleagues, is what is truly priceless in this world. That’s what giving back is all about.
It’s good to be back. I welcome your comments at NPEditor@qhc.com.