President's Message

The Journey

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President Dawn Lee Garzon Maaks, PhD, CPNP-PC, PMHS, FAANP

On July 1, I began my journey as the 42nd president of NAPNAP. I often start a journey by thinking about the steps that led me to the start. This gives me perspective and helps me keep my priorities straight. I find it’s easy to lose sight of that which is important when I’m in the midst of a challenge. So, I start my presidency with a look back, and with a glance to the journey ahead.

What brought me to this point? I’ve been a pediatric nurse for 28 years now (holy crow!) and a PNP since 1994. NAPNAP was the first organization I joined after graduation, and the St. Louis Chapter and the annual conference shaped my early career in ways too numerous to count. These experiences taught me about leadership, allowed opportunities to make dear friends, improved my clinical skills and gave me a voice as an advocate for children and families. I was born and raised in Miami, got my PNP in Gainesville, Fla., lived 24 years in the suburbs of St. Louis, and now live outside Portland, Ore. in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I’ve worked in education, PICUs, newborn nursery, primary care, behavioral health and convenient/urgent care. These professionally and geographically varied experiences remind me that the world is full of diverse viewpoints and wonderful people, and that diversity in thought, background and experience always makes for better, more well-rounded responses to complex issues.

Sir Isaac Newton is credited with saying, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This statement couldn’t be truer. I know that anything NAPNAP accomplishes during the next 12 months has more to do with the hard work and passion of our past presidents, volunteers at all levels of the organization, our Executive Board, our staff and our members than it does with anything I do as an individual. Most of us, myself included, have benefited at some point in our lives by having a door cracked open by someone who went first and made it easier for us to follow in their footsteps. If you haven’t done it recently, look at the names of our past presidents. I wish it were as easy to find the names of the past chapter presidents, SIG chairpersons and Executive Board members. These rock star leaders helped grow the organization from a small group in Ohio to one now 9,000-plus members strong! I am honored to stand on such broad shoulders.

Where am I going? There are so many important issues that we, as pediatric-focused APRNs, face personally and professionally that we need help with. Our jobs are ever-changing, resulting in significant stress and burnout in many. There are legitimate workforce issues that affect healthcare access and that impact the social determinants of health that must be addressed. We have increasing numbers of resistant infections, increases in suicide and mental illness, and growing numbers of children with food and/or housing insecurity. I live in a full practice state and recently moved from a highly regulated state, so I have lived firsthand the burden of undue barriers to practice. I believe it is NAPNAP’s job to help educate the frontline caregivers about the impact of these forces, and to provide members with evidence-based approaches to counter their negative effects. As an organization, we have to sometimes take bold, decisive steps when we see injustice, but we must always remember that the loudest voice isn’t necessarily the most important or reflective of what’s really happening. We need pediatric-focused APRNs at the table in the boardroom, in Congressional hearings and on expert panels to help shape and optimize our healthcare system. We need to do better at reaching out to our members and at encouraging the next generation of leaders to take their first steps into the spotlight.

I know I am going to spend the next year watching the horizon, scanning for new ideas, new opportunities and new threats. I have full faith and confidence in our board - it is full of passionate, tireless professionals who bring a world of experience and intelligence to the table. I reaffirm we have amazing staff who work tirelessly to keep the ship not only steering straight but strategically. My friends and family have exciting times ahead that will motivate me and bring me joy, including one daughter taking first vows as a Franciscan and my other one graduating from college. I anticipate there will be times where I’ll be uncomfortable, but I know I will grow exponentially. I hope that members pull me aside at meetings and share their experiences and perspectives. I hope you reach out to the board and your chapters. I hope you sign up for a free SIG membership (I did and can already see there are some I’ll be in for a long time). Lastly, I hope you’ll consider attending one of our specialty symposia to network with others while improving your toolbox simultaneously. From board reviews to mental health, from burn care to pharmacology, there is a symposium to meet almost everyone’s needs. I hope to see many of you later this summer and fall. I encourage each of you to reach out to me at president@napnap.org when you notice issues that you need help with. And most of all, I want you to hold me accountable.

So, it’s time to start the journey. I thank you for walking this path with me. Let’s see what lies at the end of that bend in the road. I promise we’ll be glad we did, and I can assure you there will be plenty of giggles and fun along the way. Oh, and there really should be bubbles and street chalk, we are pediatric people after all.

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