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  1. Howe, Cynthia M. MSN, RN, ONC

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As we enter the holiday season, many of us are shopping around for "the perfect tree" to display all of our treasured ornaments. I can't help but think of the most majestic conifers of all, the mighty redwoods!! The California redwood is the world's tallest known tree and one of the world's oldest trees. Mature redwoods stand 200-360 feet tall and the average age of the coast redwoods is 500-700 years; some survive to be over 2,000 years old!!


Many factors add to the longevity of the redwood trees. The high tannin content of the wood and the thick bark gives the trees remarkable resistance to diseases and insect infestations. The bark also renders them remarkably fire-tolerant. The factor that impresses me the most, however, is the unusual shallow root system. One could say it is the natural art of networking at its finest!!


The redwood root system differs from the palm tree whose taproot goes down into the ground as deep as the tree is tall. The redwood has no taproot at all and herein lies its strength. For every single foot in height it grows up, the redwood tree sends out 3 feet of roots horizontally, not vertically. If the tree is 300 feet tall, its roots go 900 feet out, intertwining with all the groping roots from the other redwoods in the grove. That's why you never see a redwood standing alone-ever!! They are always in groups called groves. Within the grove, the might of the tree is not in itself, but in the strength of its network with fellow redwoods trees. By the time a few hundred years go by, those fellow-shipping roots are so woven with one another, there is no way a tree could fall down despite strong winds and floods. It is held up by the strength of its fellow members in the grove!!


NAON's strength is also based in its members and in the networks that have been formed over the years. In past messages, I have written of the local, national and international networking opportunities within NAON. Future networking opportunities continue to sprout just as redwoods have the ability to produce new shoots from roots, taking advantage of the established root system.


The International Collaboration of Orthopaedic Nurses (ICON) was formed in the year 2000 from a series of Internet discussions among the leaders of three national associations of orthopaedic nursing: Sheila Kelly, President of the Canadian Orthopaedic Nurses Association (CONA); Julie Stone, Chair of the Royal College of Nursing/Society of Orthopaedic and Trauma Nursing (SOTN); and Anita Meehan, President of NAON. Over the past 7 years, this network has expanded to include:


Asian Association for Dynamic Osteosynthesis (Nursing); Hong Kong Orthopaedic Nurses Association (HKOA); Australia New Zealand Orthopaedic Nurses Association (ANZONA); Association of Maltese Orthopaedic Nurses (AMON); and the Irish Orthopaedic Nurses Association (IONS).


Recently, there is new growth sprouting from this established system. The Society of Orthopaedic and Trauma Nursing (SOTN) has secured funding from the Royal College of Nursing to set up an international E-mentoring project over a 2-year period. ICON members have been invited to participate in this endeavor, and Anita Meehan, NAON Past President, will serve as the NAON representative on this project.


Another offshoot of growth is the vision to register ICON with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) that serves as a hub for 130 countries for the exchange of ideas, experience and expertise for the nursing profession. ICN provides opportunities for nurses to: build relationships; identify issues and follow trends; offer special expertise through creating a resource pool from network members for information, support and other assistance.


When we stand alone, we are vulnerable and can easily fall. Yet by establishing networks like the redwoods, we support and strengthen each other. These magnificent redwood trees grow only on the Pacific coast of America, on a narrow strip of land from southern Oregon to Monterey County-in the region of the 2008 Annual NAON Congress in San Jose, California!! If you've never taken a drive through this beautiful area, consider adding this to your "to do list" while in San Jose. I assure you that it's one of the most awesome sights you will ever see and it will remain in your memory for as long as you live.