Q&A with Aila Accad, RN, MSN in Health Promotion and Wellness
BestNursingDegree.com interviews award-winning speaker and health promotion and wellness nurse Aila Accad, RN, MSN. Accad specializes in stress and wrote the best-selling book, 34 Instant Stress Busters: Quick Tips to De-Stress Fast with no Extra Time or Money. For more information, please visit www.ailaspeaks.com.
Below she shares her experiences in nursing and what it means to be in health promotion and wellness.
Q: What is your current position?
I'm a speaker, writer, author and well-being coach. And, I own my own business doing those things.
Q: What is health promotion and wellness?
Health promotion and wellness is helping people get well and stay well. It's really primary and secondary prevention - you're not waiting until people have a severe disease state before you start to help them. It's really helping people to learn the strategies for staying well and managing their chronic diseases.
Q: What was your background, and how did you become interested in this position?
When I was in my bachelor's program an instructor said that 85 percent of all disease and illness is due to stress. Well, my mind just clicked in at that point. I thought, "why don't we help people reduce their stress and that way they don't have to be sick." That got me excited, and I set off on a path to learn more and more about stress and how stress effects disease and illness. It took me from mental health into organizational health and employee assistance programs. I just kept learning more and more as I went along and got more excited about being able to help people in a genuine way.
Q: What should nurses seek from their educational experiences for this career?
I will tell you that according to the scope of practice that I operate under, having a bachelor's degree is the first level of professionalism. You can operate as an independent nursing professional at that bachelor's degree level.
It was in my master's program that I really got a better understanding of the theoretical frameworks, the nurse theorists that underpin my practice - that added another dimension. I think that the more education you have, sometimes the better, sometimes not. A bachelor's degree is a minimum and then moving into the master's and maybe even nurse practitioner. A bachelor's degree is the first level of professional independent practice with which you can have your own business. You don't have to be a nurse practitioner to do what I do.
Q: In your work in health promotion and wellness, what is an average day like?
My average day usually involves some kind of educational program. I may be doing a seminar or a workshop live. I could be hosting a tele-seminar or webinar. I could be writing articles and putting those online to educate the public. I'm frequently talking to my colleagues - other nurses - about health promotion and wellness. Also, I have a newsletter and all these social media kinds of things. On my Facebook page, I'll frequently post information for people about health, how to stay well, or the latest research in a particular area. I just did that this morning.
Q: What are the challenges you face in this career?
Well, the biggest challenge is if you're somebody who wants to get a job in a hospital, that's fine, but 97 percent of the population is not in an institution. They're really out in the public. You will either hook up with a clinic, or your work will be "non-traditional." It's going to be out in a different venue.
You might want to learn a little bit about becoming a businessperson. I learned that along the way. You might work in other kinds of venues [than hospitals], and it might be challenging to change your mindset from working in an institution.
The other challenge is that if you're going to be in independent practice, you're going to have to learn more about other models for getting paid than third party reimbursement. Because the third party reimbursement system right now is based on the medical model, and nurses are not generally diagnosing medical conditions and using medical treatments. You may have to find more creative ways to get paid.
Q: What are some of the benefits of this specialty?
I think the biggest benefit is [that] you see results. You can really see the outcomes of your nursing interventions, and that's the most rewarding thing of all. So often in a hospital setting, you're doing a lot of work with someone, but once they leave you don't see them again. You don't know what the outcome is unless they come back into the hospital, which, unfortunately, frequently happens. In my work, I get to see people all the time. In fact, with many of my clients, I get to see the results of my efforts, and I get to hear the positive outcomes.
Q: What special skills do nurses need in this position?
I think the most important thing is good communication skills. You'll be working directly with people and helping them put complicated concepts into simple forms, so they can understand how to implement the strategies you're suggesting. Communication skills are essential to being able to work with people on an individual basis. Also, you want to have a systems or global perspective because you're going to help people hook up with other resources. You want to have the kind of mind that looks for connections - how things connect, how the community resources can connect, and how people can access exactly what they need.
Q: Was there anything that surprised you about nursing and specifically health promotion?
What surprised me the most is that when I started working in the community, through organizations and individually, [I realized] how respected the nursing degree was. I didn't need a business degree - business people respected my nursing degree. I was [also] surprised at how diverse the field is. [Nurses] are holistically oriented and systems-oriented, and that allows us to move in so many different directions.
Q: How can nurses decide if health promotion and wellness is right for them?
I think that every nurse needs to consult her heart or his heart. You need to follow your passion; follow what really excites you. That's what happened to me. Nursing is so diverse. If you like to help people and really see the results of what you do, this is a perfect career for you.
Q: What are the most significant changes that you've seen in nursing?
The most significant change in nursing has been the onset of nurse practitioners. Nurses are able to work directly with the public on primary and secondary prevention - able to do primary care - and get paid directly. That is so exciting, and I think that's going to expand. The scope of nursing practice is expanding with health reform; that's going to be our future - working directly with the public in many different venues.
Q: Any other recommendations for aspiring nurses?
My advice to you is: get involved in the process that is in place right now to expand the scope of nursing practice. You're future is being determined by people who don't know anything about nursing. It's being determined by legislators all over the country. Get involved with your nursing association, the American Nurses Association and your state association. Also, get involved with your specialty associations.
Nurses sitting at the table have made the difference in the current legislation, and I think [it will be true for] future legislation as well. Legislators, just like everyone else, respect nursing. They know we're advocates for people, and we're not really just lining our own pockets. Get involved. That's my number one suggestion.