Kristine Buffa, MSN, RN, OCN, BMTCN
I remember standing in the kitchen of my childhood home, approximately fifteen years old and full of angst, telling my father that I wanted to be a nurse and that I had plans to attend graduate school too. Let’s just say I was a bit of a nerd. I reflected on this moment in the interceding years, reflecting on that resolve as I trudged through nursing school exams and during those melancholy moments studying for the NCLEX.
Becoming a nurse and earning a graduate degree is not a particularly glamorous goal, but as a child of an average middle class American family, earning these degrees were aspirational. With only 33% of the nation holding baccalaureate degrees and 13.2% of the nation’s nurses holding either a master’s or doctoral degree, these goals felt just far enough away to cause low-level anxiety.
Indeed, my own family fell well into the nation’s normal; I am the first in my immediate family to earn these degrees. My graduation cap felt heavy with the weight of my grandfather, a decorated Army and Navy veteran, the weight of my grandmother, who passed away from cancer just days after I completed my baccalaureate program, and the weight of my mother, who stayed home with my sister and me, working tirelessly to provide us with the stable bedrock upon which we could build our lives. I wore the cap for all of them and many others, a conglomerate effort to propel me across that stage and into nursing practice.
Once I entered nursing practice I quickly realized that the hard part was ahead of me still; however, working as a nurse has been the most enlightening and satisfying experience of my life thus far. After several years working in acute rehab and then oncology/bone marrow transplant, I was excited for a new challenge and transitioned to nursing professional development.
Shortly after starting in this role I was asked to take the lead on building a new, nursing-focused mobile phone application (henceforth referred to as an app). Given that I’m a nurse and not a programmer, I didn’t have the faintest idea of how to go about doing this; however, I’ve since realized that part of this position is to dive into the unknown while clutching closely your resources. There are many individuals at my institution who were integral to this effort.
While we were still in the planning process, I was encouraged to apply to the ANPD Star Search and present this topic. I did not think that I was ready for a presentation at a national conference; the app was still in the planning process, I was a fledgling in my role, and I was so very intimidated. In the face of these doubts I thought back to the fifteen year old of my past and what she would want. I applied.
I was pleasantly surprised when my abstract was accepted into the Star Search competition, and I quickly started preparing for the conference in Pittsburgh. Luckily, I was able to attend with several colleagues, a cheering squad and captive audience for my rehearsals.
On the first day of the conference and in the early morning sun, Pittsburgh rose up beneath my plane and I landed in the city of bridges. The conference was a city unto itself, with rows of exhibits stretching across the colossal convention center floor. I spent hours interacting with various presenters, gathering ideas to bring back to my hospital, and viewing posters. I returned to my hotel room with my head pleasantly full and tucked in to a very comfortable hotel bed.
Over the course of the conference I attended as many concurrent sessions as my schedule would allow, gathering tips for my impending presentation. My nervousness grew as the time to present drew nearer. I surveyed the room in which I would present the night before, stood on the podium, and counted the chairs. Nearly three hundred chairs occupied the room, which did nothing to decrease my nerves.
On the last evening of the conference I stepped onto the podium, started my stopwatch for ten minutes, and launched into my Star Search presentation. After two sentences my nerves abated and I settled in to the well-rehearsed lines. Luckily I presented first and was able to enjoy the remaining three presentations.
At the closing ceremony I sat with my colleagues and waited to hear the results. I expected nothing and hoped quietly that I would win the ability to come to present the next year. I was honored when my name was called as the winner of the Star Search and I’m excited to present a concurrent session at the upcoming conference in New Orleans.
 Ryan, C.M. & Bauman, K. (March 2016). Educational Attainment in the United States: 2015. US Census Bureau.
 Health Resources and Services Administration. (September 2010). The Registered Nurse Population: Findings From the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.