Nurses love to say "but we've always done it that way."
That's not acceptable anymore, said Debra Hobbins, MSN, APRN, NP, president of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), as she kicked off the group's 2004 convention.
"The last decade has been a sea of change," Hobbins said. "We need to chart a course to where we want to go - to challenge the status quo."
The theme of this year's conference, held June 26-30 in Tampa, FL, was exactly that - challenging the status quo. Hobbins and dozens of other speakers urged the 3,000-plus attendees to listen and learn during the conference, take home the information to their employers and co-workers and then challenge the status quo. The goal is to make healthcare better for patients and the nurses who care for them.
The 5-day conference offered a bevy of sessions for AWHONN members and visitors, covering both clinical and professional topics. While most of the speakers were nurses, a few high-profile non-nurse presenters got the attendees pumped up and motivated to make changes in their professional and personal lives.
Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, one of the most highly decorated military women in U.S. history and the Air Force's first female general, was the keynote speaker, offering nurses tips about "Overcoming the Roadblocks to Success."
Leaders are necessary in every situation, Vaught explained. Even if you are not a born leader, you can develop leadership skills by using some of the wisdom Vaught has learned during her long career.
Effective leadership habits - thinking ahead, learning from mistakes, setting standards about what's right and wrong and living by them - will help nurses not only perform better in their jobs, but also enjoy their work more fully.
"If it isn't fun, start looking for another job," Vaught said. "If you don't enjoy it, you're either in the wrong profession, with the wrong employers or in the wrong work environment.
"If you're not happy in your job, do something."
Many of the sessions discussed the "good, the bad and the ugly" aspects of various ob/gyn topics.
Nancy K. Lowe, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN, of the Oregon Health & Science University, presented some startling statistics in her session "A Panoramic of Childbearing in 2004."
For the first time in 40 years, the U.S. infant mortality rate rose, Dr. Lowe said. The rate of pre-term births (those before 37 weeks gestation) has increased and the number of multiple births has increased. Women are having babies later in life as well, and C-section rates were at an all-time high of 26.1 percent of all U.S. births in 2002. Perhaps most shocking, a baby born to a black woman in the U.S. is twice as likely to die in the first year of life as a baby born to a white woman.
Polly Perez, BSN, RN, FACCE, LCCE, CD, who currently runs a private practice in Vermont, discussed how to get back to the basics of labor and delivery by bringing the perinatal nurse back to the bedside. By "mothering the mother" with continuous support, nurses can lower c-section rates, reduce the percentage of medical interventions and decrease the percentage of women who report dissatisfaction with their birth experience, Perez said.
Kathy Mahoney, RN, APN, of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, NJ, presented a session about managing HIV in pregnant women. The state of New Jersey has the fifth highest number of AIDS cases in the United States, but because of prenatal education and counseling, the perinatal transmission of HIV from mother to baby decreased from 21 percent in 1993 to 5 percent in 2002.
Audrey Lyndon, MS, RN,C, CNS, of California, talked about the cutting edge of care: fetal surgery. While fetal surgery is innovative and can help some patients with some conditions, Lyndon cautioned that it is not the right fit for every patient with fetal anomalies.
Along with a plethora of educational sessions and a huge exhibit hall, the AWHONN convention also served as a backdrop for numerous awards to individual nurses and facilities across the country.
Martha Griffith Lavendar, DSN, MSN, RN, was awarded AWHONN's highest honor, the 2004 Distinguished Professional Service Award. Dr. Lavendar, who is the deputy program manager for training for EAI Corp. at the Center for Domestic Preparedness, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was honored for her commitment, diligence, excellence and unparalleled contributions to AWHONN and the nursing profession. Dr. Lavendar is currently on a leave of absence from Jacksonville (FL) State University where she is a professor and dean of the Lurleen B. Wallace College of Nursing and Health Sciences.