February 2024 President's Letter

Greetings SPN Members!


Since returning from the holidays, I had discussions with colleagues about trying to manage multiple priorities and keep our heads above water. This past week, we did a small group exercise during one of our quarterly team meetings and revisited Stephen Covey’s example of big rocks, pebbles, and sand. For those unfamiliar with this example, it is one that helps us focus on prioritizing the tasks or goals we must absolutely accomplish. The big rocks represent our priorities, those tasks that need focus and determination. The big rocks may be big goals that require energy and focus or may be others that we may be able to accomplish in just a few minutes, but may be linked to heavy emotion, such as having to make a difficult decision that impacts others or having a difficult conversation with a colleague. Pebbles represent things of medium importance that we need to spend time on. Sand represents things that are urgent, but not as important as other things on our plate, often things that distract and take away our focus and productivity. To fit all the rocks in the jar and maximize our productivity, the big rocks must go in the jar first, followed by pebbles, then sand. For those unfamiliar Covey’s work, this video does a great job of demonstrating the big rocks analogy.

The purpose of our small group exercise was twofold - to help us focus on what is important by differentiating our big rocks, pebbles, and sand, and to share our big rocks with our peers to create constructive collaboration to accomplish these priorities. Several had similar big rocks and were able to come together to share the workload and/or existing resources. It was a positive experience, and I took away these pearls of wisdom that my colleagues shared:

  • I try to identify two big rocks to tackle each day at work – one in the morning and one to tackle in the afternoon. I block time on my calendar to do them. I do the same at home with personal big rocks on the weekends. I also identify one big rock to do as a family each evening.
  • I have a personal big rock that is my well-being. I wake up early to be able to get a morning run in before coming to work. Running helps me feel energized and focused while at work.
  • I make time to share my big rocks with my direct reports so we can align our priorities toward the same goals.
  • I block time on my calendar for the big rock items, so I have protected time to focus on the priorities that are most important.

Big rocks will be different for everyone, and priorities may shift. I hope you can prioritize personal goals as well, such as family time, well-being, personal growth, and scheduling time to do those things that bring you joy.


At the beginning of each year, the SPN President summarizes the accomplishments of the organization over the previous year. Keep and eye out for the Society of Pediatric Nurses: 2023 Year in Review article which will be in the next issue of the Journal of Pediatric Nursing (JPN). I am in awe of the many ways in which our membership is engaged with SPN and are committed to advancing SPN’s mission.


I am getting excited for SPN’s 34th Annual Conference April 17-19 in Phoenix, AZ!! This year’s conference theme is Blazing the Trail to Pediatric Excellence and will offer up to 24 NCPD contact hours. Don’t miss out! Be sure to take advantage of the early bird registration and save $150 on conference registration. I hope you are starting to make your plans to attend!

Kathy Van Allen, MSN, RN, CPN

SPN President

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