Unfolding vision

By James E. Mattson | 07/29/2016

Visions do not come full-grown.

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Sixteen years ago this month, I became editor of Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL). At one point in the interview process, I thought I had blown it and wouldn’t be offered the position. 

James MattsonIn early 2000, I was unemployed, the first time in more than 13 years. Although I was proud of the progress I had made in my career and confident of my abilities, I didn’t relish being on the job market—updating and distributing my résumé, searching for prospective employers, starting over.
 
Wanted: Editor
One day during my job search, I came across a monster.com listing by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI). I still have a copy of it: “Sigma Theta Tau International, a 77-year-old [in 2000] nursing honor society is recruiting for an editor of our award-winning publication, Reflections on Nursing Leadership. Our organization is located in Indianapolis, IN, in an elegant facility near downtown on the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis campus. Visit our Web site at www.nursingsociety.org for a look inside our world. … Experience working with highly educated professional readers, especially nurses, would be an asset.”
 
I’m a journalist, not a nurse, and had never heard of STTI but was attracted to what the ad said about the organization, its magazine—then a 56-page, four-color print publication—and what they were looking for in an editor. Although I had not previously worked with nurses, I hoped my 13-plus years of writing about MRI, including a book—a biographic history of scientists who contributed to the science behind the technology—would reveal my aptitude and overcome what I lacked in nursing-related experience. After looking over the honor society’s website, I submitted my résumé and hoped for a positive response.
 
It came. Following an initial phone interview, I was invited to travel to Indianapolis for more interviews, one of them with Nancy Dickenson-Hazard, MSN, RN, FAAN, then chief executive officer of STTI. After meeting for several hours with various staff members, including those in the publications department, I was escorted to Nancy’s office.
 
Tell me what you see
One of her first questions was, “What is your vision for the magazine?” To be honest, I didn’t have one. I had a vision, but I was pretty sure that saying I was looking for a job I would enjoy and one that would return me to gainful employment wasn’t the vision she was asking about. My knowledge of STTI and Reflections on Nursing Leadership’s past role in supporting the honor society’s vision was in its infancy, with my vision for the magazine’s future still undeveloped.
 
What I did tell Nancy was, if I become editor of Reflections on Nursing Leadership, I will acquire a vision for the magazine, and you can expect the same commitment to excellence from me as editor that is attested to in the references I have provided from past employers. She smiled, and we completed the interview, but I figured I had probably blown it. A week or so later, however, I was offered the position of editor, Reflections on Nursing Leadership!
 
In retrospect, I think my response to Nancy’s question was a good one. Visions do not come full-grown. And I think she may agree.
 
In the foreword to her book Ready, Set, Go Lead!, she writes, “The journey for a leader … involves learning and practicing adaptive skills.” Note the word “journey.” That’s how most visions take shape, one step at a time. As you move forward, you see things you didn’t see at first, and if you let what you see inform your direction, your destination will probably change. I find confirmation of that in the section of her book titled “Forward-Looking, Reality-Based Visions,” where Nancy observes, “Futuristic leaders look inside out, basing their vision and action not just on trends and facts, but also what is valued and learned from lived experience.”
 
Changing focus
I thought about this a few days ago when I was posting an entry from Laura Morán-Peña, EdM, RN, in Postmark: Cape Town, the RNL blog that recently provided daily coverage of STTI’s 27th International Nursing Research Congress. In the post for Sunday, 24 July, titled, Attending these congresses enhances my vision, Morán-Peña informs readers that the Cape Town congress was her fourth congress, and that, in attending her first three, her vision was primarily that of researcher.
 
“Currently, however,” she continues, “I am in my second term as chair of the Latin American Association of Colleges of Nursing, so my vision and expectations have changed. In fact, they are totally different, influenced significantly by the current environment of globalization, varying in its determinations and local expressions; recognition of the importance of collaborative networking; use of information technologies and communication—and, above all, recognition of the importance of collective awareness and united action that lead to transformation of the nursing profession through its influence on healthcare policies.” In other words, Morán-Peña’s evolving career path is affecting her vision for the future. As she becomes increasingly aware of changing conditions, her vision and perspective change.
 
Learn and grow
That’s why lifelong learning, a major theme of President Cathy Catrambone’s call to action, is so important. If you stop learning, you stop growing, and you—and the world—are the poorer for it. This and other themes are addressed in a recent six-part RNL series titled “Answering the call: Members respond to the presidential call to action.”
 
In writing an article that addresses the topic of lifelong learning for this call-to-action series, Nomvuzo Diamini, RN, RM, who practices in Swaziland, recalls: “I remember clearly when my mentor asked me to consider participating in [the first cohort of Africa’s Maternal-Child Health Nurse Leadership Academy]. I didn’t know if I should. … However, my mentor kindly sat down with me, explained everything in detail, and gave me the courage to ‘try my luck’ and see this as an opportunity to learn. So I did it!”
 
The result? In addition to developing her leadership skills, Diamini empowered other women by educating them about nutrition, and they in turn are training others. And the vision is still unfolding.
 
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James E. Mattson is editor of Reflections on Nursing Leadership.

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