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The Challenge to Nursing Professionals: Make Time for Learning

September 15, 2013

By Diana L. Gallagher MS, RN, CWOCN, CFCN

On these early days in September, school begins for countless young people across our country. Small children, excited yet timid, let go of their mom or dad’s hand and bravely enter their first experience with formal education. It is a major step that will be celebrated with kindergarten graduations complete with missing teeth and mortar boards made of coffee filters. These milestone celebrations will pave the way for grade school, middle school, and high school graduations. Many will go on to college and some will complete that initial degree and even additional degrees. But the journey is never over. Learning IS a lifelong adventure.

In nursing, regardless of specialty, this is especially true. Imagine a world void of ongoing learning. In wound care, it is hard to even contemplate. The advances that have been made in the last 50 years have changed how wound care is delivered. What if we never knew about Pasteur’s germ theory of disease, George D. Winter’s work that pioneered moist wound healing, or any of the remarkable discoveries that change the standards of care we deliver today. We would not know about hydrocolloids, hydrogels, alginates or any of the countless advanced dressings on the market today. We owe a debt of gratitude to our research partners who develop these innovations and the quiet champions who have dedicated their lives to teaching others how to perform great wound care.

All education, whether it is delivered in a formal setting or collected independently, has value. We each have a responsibility to seek opportunities for learning. Perhaps that means returning to college for an advanced degree, or budgeting the resources for attendance at national or regional conferences. At the very least, it means belonging to professional organizations and reading peer reviewed journals to keep abreast of changes in our specialties. We have a responsibility to deliver evidence-based practice and in order to do that, we have to have current knowledge of research as it is evolving.

Personally, it is hard to imagine not attending a professional conference. It is the easiest way to get the most current knowledge about practice and products in one setting. There are countless other benefits including networking, posters on emerging research trends, and the simple opportunity to recharge the internal battery. I know that attending a conference is a financial investment and not everyone has the budget or an employer that allows them to go. There are options like poster presentations, room sharing, and serving on regional and national boards that can help fund attendance. But they all require some effort. Anything worth doing is going to require some effort.

My challenge to each of you is to do something tangible to LEARN more. Read that journal that is buried on the desk, develop a budget or plan to get to a conference this year, or consider some other venue for more education.

I hope to attend conferences again this year and every year. However, I am also interested in a traditional format for more education. We each learn from our mentors and Katherine Jeter is a mentor to so many of us. While planning her coast-to-coast bike ride, Katherine Jeter shared a valuable tip: "If you are hoping to do something BIG, make it public... It will make it harder to back out." Following Katherine's wise advice, I am going to share. I am in the process of applying for graduate school. It is a process and I have yet to be accepted. So far, I have filed the application, paid the fee, requested letters of reference, and am preparing for the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and drafting my statement of interest. My plan is now "out there"... I guess that means that it is time to study.

Learning is a lifelong adventure.

About the Author
Diana Gallagher has over 30 years of nursing experience with a strong focus in wound, ostomy, continence, and foot care nursing. As one of the early leaders driving certification in foot care nursing, she embraces a holistic nursing model. A comprehensive, head to toe assessment is key in developing an individualized plan of care.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, HMP Global, its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.