It has been my privilege and pleasure to edit JCN for the past nine years from 2003 to 2011. Following directly in the editorial footsteps of Christine Webb and perpetuating the vision of JCN, first expressed by Mary Watkins and her initial editorial board, was genuinely daunting. The journal published six issues annually at that time, in hard copy. Since 2003, JCN has grown to be the largest academic nursing journal in the world, the second highest cited and, in that process, became the first UK-based nursing journal to gain an impact factor >1.

The precise ingredients of the success of JCN are hard to pinpoint. One UK Research Assessment Exercise has taken place (2008), and this always heralds a significant increase in submission to journals – which usually does not subside. The simple fact of gaining an impact factor >1 put JCN‘on the map’ where impact factors are given great attention and used as indicators of quality in promotions and research grant application, thus influencing submission rates from these areas. The fact that submissions have increased from some areas of the world has altered the pattern of submission to JCN. The most noticeable increase in submission has been from greater China, Taiwan in particular, but JCN publishes papers from approximately 40 countries annually. Therefore, JCN is a truly international journal.

In terms of its mission, JCN has not changed: it aims primarily to publish papers that are relevant to clinical nursing; it always has and continues to do so. Nevertheless, not all of the papers are about clinical practice, and we have considerable competition from other journals for good clinical papers. To make the clinical practice papers more accessible, we publish in two sections: one focusing on clinical interventions and one on issues such as patient and family experience and other issues peripheral, but relevant, to nursing practice. This has helped to increase the focus on the clinical papers and demonstrate the worth of, for example, staff development, nursing education and the views of the consumers of healthcare on practice.

In parallel, JCN has continued to publish special issues and these have ranged from workforce issues to complementary and alternative medicine. Forthcoming special issues include one on statistics and a set of papers from a major European nursing conference at which the abstracts for the conference were published in a special issue of JCN given to all delegates. I am especially pleased with the most recent special issue that was edited by European doctoral students engaged in the European Doctoral Conference in Nursing Science. This has provided a group of future leaders of the profession in Europe with editing experience and some insight into the academic publishing industry. I am very grateful to the individuals who assume the task of being special issue editors; this provides some variety and focus to the contents of the journal.

Of course, I do not edit JCN alone. In recent years I have been joined by Debra Jackson (Australia), Carol Haigh (UK), Mark Hayter (UK) and Deborah Fingfeld-Connett (USA). In addition we have regional editors from South East Asia (Thomas Wong), North America (Elaine Amella) and the Southern Hemisphere (Amanda Henderson), all of which further demonstrates and ensures the international nature of the journal. It has, simply, been fun working with these excellent, diligent and largely autonomous colleagues. Such is their autonomy and enthusiasm that I have questioned my role; my conclusion is that, rather than a manager I am more like the conductor of an orchestra: more involved in the preparation than in the delivery. Behind this team there has been excellent support from Wiley-Blackwell with Griselda Campbell as the permanent fixture and a changeable team of other publishing managers, editorial assistants and production assistants.

Looking to the future I have no doubt that JCN will continue to flourish; submission rates continue to increase, and the quality of the work submitted means that we have to be increasingly selective about what proceeds through the review process. The plethora of international publishing standards concerned with ethics, reporting and reviewing will continue to be refined and implemented, and the impact of new technology and new trends in publishing – blogging, Twitter and open access publishing, to name but a few – will continue to challenge us.

However, the future of JCN is not mine and I am very pleased to hand over the Editor-in-Chief position to Cynthia King from Queens University, Charlotte, USA. Cynthia will introduce herself in the first issue of JCN in 2012, but I would like to pre-empt any modesty on her behalf by indicating that she has an impeccable clinical and academic background with an outstanding record of scholarship. Her personal background and North American perspective will surely take the journal into new territory and towards new horizons. I will be busy with the Journal of Advanced Nursing; but I will be watching with great interest. I wish Cynthia and the whole team the best for 2012 and beyond, and I would also like to take this chance to thank all authors, readers, reviewers and special issue editors who have helped to make JCN what it is today.