Finding Our Spark
In all honesty, AMSN’s board of directors were worried. The numbers for Covid-19 infections were on the rise in Florida, the location of this year’s national convention. Since our first concern was for the safety of the attendees and their families, the decision was made to make the convention 100% virtual for the second year in a row.
The board also recognized how tired and overwhelmed nurses are. We wanted to provide a convention that would offer the high-level sessions that our members have come to expect, but we also wanted to be mindful of where nurses are physically, emotionally, and psychologically right now.
Did our members even have the bandwidth to attend a virtual convention? Would they be interested at all in continuing education on their time off? How could AMSN best meet the members’ needs at this time?
The attendees were always engaged, chatting about home, their lives and experiences, and, of course, work. They seemed almost hungry for education and were excited to take what they’d learned back to their units.
Thanks to the amazing skills of the convention planning committee, as well as the limitless talents and dedication of the national staff, AMSN was able to deliver a convention that could be considered one of the best ever. T
he attendees were always engaged, chatting about home, their lives and experiences, and, of course, work. They seemed almost hungry for education and were excited to take what they’d learned back to their units.
By the second day of convention, there was a subtle change in the atmosphere. Although med-surg nurses typically have a form of social solidarity that binds us together (including our stories, compassion, and our humor), this was something different. A joy that had been missing from our lives for the past 18 months; one that comes from gathering with friends and colleagues. A joy that has been termed “collective effervescence”.
The term was first coined by a sociologist, Emile Durkheim, and refers to that sense of joy, harmony, and exhilaration experienced when people with a shared purpose or interest gather (Liebst, 2021). This idea was further developed into Interactional Ritual (IR) Theory (Collins, 2004).
A signature component of IR Theory (and collective effervescence) is that those individuals who are gathered develop a synchronization between each other’s emotions which intensifies the shared experience, creating an effervescent atmosphere that intensifies the experience, building emotional energy and resulting in group solidarity (Liebst, 2021).
This shared exuberance is one of the goals for AMSN’s annual convention. We realize that nurses need this opportunity of social enrichment on a regular basis, especially in consideration of today’s healthcare atmosphere. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we seem to have lost that spark.
Of course, we all dug in and worked toward the common goal of helping patients survive. We worked hard to support our colleagues while becoming stretched thinner and thinner. The politicization of the pandemic seemed to make the lives of nurses at the point of care go from difficult to downright tragic as the country, families, and even peers on a single unit became divided. It was enough to drive some nurses out of the profession while it hurt others to their very soul.
And we achieved that goal in spades! Many of the attendees at convention reported regaining their spark, filling their cup, and being renewed. We laughed, cried, and talked together. We painted, had lunch, and even did some yoga together. Med-Surg nurses were able to laugh with joy and let go, for a while, of the burdens that had been holding them down.
The spark has new life in each of us and is burning bright. Let us not forget to feed it frequently with camaraderie, joy in being present, and passion for the specialty that is med-surg.
Although we left each other, sadly, on Sunday afternoon, we renewed our spirits, found the energy that we had lost, and developed a sense of harmony.
We’ve also taken with us that bit of effervescence – that spark that we thought had dimmed. The spark has new life in each of us and is burning bright. Let us not forget to feed it frequently with camaraderie, joy in being present, and passion for the specialty that is med-surg.
How can we continue the effervescence and maintain that spark? We must remain intentional about engaging and contributing to discussions.
AMSN’s members can do this through conversations in the HUB, contributing to the AMSN blog on the app, and with colleagues and peers. Engagement can occur online and with nurses across the world through participation in webinars, through the exchange of reflections on topics of interest, and by supporting each other as we continue to navigate this world that isn’t quite post-Covid at this point.
Connecting (and reconnecting) with others can spark all kinds of feelings including joy, comfort, and passion. If we are intentional about engaging with fellow nurses and having a shared purpose in mind, such as maintaining a sense of camaraderie with others, laughter, finding joy in nursing or any other topic of interest, we can continue the sense of connection which leads to collective effervescence.
The spark that we found will remain alive and well.
Collins, R. (2004). Interactional Ritual Chains. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400851744
Liebst, L.S. (2019). Exploring the sources of collective effervescence: A multilevel study. Sociological Science, 6: 27-42. doi:10.15195/v6.a2