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Vol. 23, No. 11, NOVEMBER 2006

In the Circle: President’s Award for Chapters

Editor’s note: The President’s Award for Chapters goes to the chapter or chapters that best exemplify the president’s theme. The 2005-06 theme was “Engage and Transform.” March 1, 2007 is the deadline to apply for the 2006-07 award related to the “Powered by Insight” theme of President Mary Fran Tracy, RN, PhD, CCNS, CCRN, FAAN. Following are excerpts submitted in connection with the award for 2005-06.

Greater Washington Area Chapter
District of Columbia
In November 2005, the president and Board of Directors of the Greater Washington Area Chapter and its premier partner, Georgetown University Hospital, “engaged” more than 300 nursing leaders representing 30 hospital affiliations in the Washington, D.C. greater metropolitan area “to transform” critical care practice. At this dinner event, titled “Beacons of Leadership: In Pursuit of Healthy Work Environments,” GWAC promoted the AACN Healthy Work Environment Standards and launched an AACN Beacon Award Challenge for Critical Care Excellence. By attending the event, each of the 30 affiliated hospitals was eligible for a one-time $500 gift contribution to use toward the AACN Beacon Award application fee. This is a five-year budget commitment by GWAC for $15,000 to encourage local hospitals and units to participate.

In addition, the GWAC Board of Directors created a new board position and the Beacon Committee, which includes ambassadors to mentor nurses in the Beacon application process. Members of the Beacon Committee devised a plan to “engage and transform” the local critical care nursing community. Using several elements outlined in the AACN HWE Standards, this 13-member committee used skilled communication to ensure that all the targeted hospitals were aware of the event. Rather than mailing an invitation to each institution, committee members made personal visits to the nurse executives for each hospital. Of the 30 invited hospitals, 26 were represented at the event with a total of 327 attendees.

Members of GWAC “engaged” their critical care community by planting seeds for nursing excellence. Now the fruit is already being reaped as critical care units show evidence of becoming “transformed.” This truly was a chapter membership driven effort to engage their hospitals with the AACN HWE Standards and transform their critical care units into Beacons of Excellence.

Oklahoma City Area Chapter
The once-idle OKC AACN Chapter has engaged and transformed. Two years ago, this chapter had only one dedicated person and a box full of past paperwork. Through collaboration with other nurses within the community, a meeting of six nurses was held, and the chapter was reborn. Through hard work and dedication the six nurses revived the chapter once known as “the box.”
The chapter has exemplified engagement on many fronts. Using diplomacy and leadership, the chapter leaders have collaborated with the Oklahoma City Critical Care Consortium leaders to achieve optimal educational and networking opportunities. In addition, engagement with local vendors has enabled the chapter to get sponsorships for dinners and esteemed speakers.
The officers are keenly aware of the focus on the current push for Magnet status within the organizations of the community, which is lending to a push for involvement in professional organizations. Looking back at the past 18 months, transformation of this chapter is evident. The fruits of the chapter officers’ labor are definitely documented. Membership has grown from six to more than 40.

Having seven meetings and a certification review course over a period of 18 months is quite an undertaking for a newly revived chapter. Meeting attendance has grown from 10 to 70 people. Since the chapter has now completed the transformation, it will be doing self-examination to see how it can transform on other fronts. With the future in mind, the chapter will continue to challenge members to become more active in the local chapter. The development of new leaders through mentorship is imperative so that this growing chapter can continue to make a difference in the OKC community.

Southwest Georgia Chapter
The Southwest Georgia Chapter was started in July 2002 by a group of dynamic nurses from all different backgrounds and specialties who believed in the mission, vision and values of AACN. From the beginning, our chapter was dedicated to the idea of engaging critical care nurses in our community to carry out the ideals established by AACN. We made two commitments: 1) to provide high-quality education; and 2) recognize excellence in the delivery of AACN standards at the local level.
These commitments led to the creation of the First Annual Circle of Excellence Critical Care Conference. So began a tradition to recognize and support our local members by having our own Circle of Excellence Awards. The awards chosen were based on the actual criteria from the National AACN Circle of Excellence Awards. Since its inception, the Circle of Excellence Critical Care Conference has recognized a total of 18 nurses for their contributions to critically ill patients and their families.

We have learned much from our endeavors: the birth of a chapter, and developing that chapter to represent the mission, vision and values of AACN. Whether “Rising Above,” “Living Our Contribution” or continuing on the journey of “Engage and Transform,” the Southwest Georgia Chapter has transformed from two nurses thinking “what if” to a dynamic chapter of 40 members that will soon celebrate its third anniversary. We are proud of what we have built; the enthusiasm is contagious as others have come to appreciate the values promoted by a local chapter of AACN.

Greater Akron Area Chapter
The Greater Akron Area Chapter took great pride in meeting its goals of providing educational programming and networking opportunities for its members. The chapter hosted CCRN Review courses in addition to bimonthly dinner meetings and has remained stable and vibrant through its dedicated leadership. Our members were engaged and being transformed through their participation in the educational programs and leadership opportunities, however, we always seemed to fall short in engaging them for community service. Early efforts to promote community service centered on nonperishable food and monetary donations for a local family nutrition center.

Chapter volunteers observed the huge need served by this inner-city organization. AACN’s message regarding cultural blind spots, helped to identify this opportunity as one that could potentially engage and transform the members in the area of community service. Genessaret Family Nutrition Center provides hot meals and transitional housing for Akron, Ohio homeless and very low-income families and meals for an AIDS group home. Genessaret takes its name from the biblical term for the Sea of Galilee, whose living water symbolizes blessings. While the poor and the needy are obvious recipients, the GAAC members also shared in those blessings. The GAAC committed to staffing one Saturday each month. The commitment grew and many members are now regular volunteers. It was especially humbling to see participation on the Saturday before Easter, the Saturday after Thanksgiving and on Christmas Eve. Their involvement and participation is awesome.
The GAAC continues to engage and transform its members in the area of community service through its commitment of the valuable resource of time, given unconditionally in service to the poor. It has been inspiring to see our consciousness raised to the “cultural blind spots” in our own community. Genessaret, as the source of blessings, has allowed our members to be a blessing to others.

Charlestowne Chapter
South Carolina
The chapter board meeting began as we “trickled” into the hospital meeting area, much like the traffic moving on the interstate that afternoon. “Let’s get started,” our president began as we reviewed the minutes. Yet, the conversation kept returning to the weather, as it frequently does in Charleston, South Carolina, during hurricane season. “I feel so helpless” and “To think we were just there” were some of the comments. Silence came over our group. As if our minds were connected, three of us exclaimed, “Let’s do something about it!” “NTI was outstanding!” “New Orleans was fabulous!” “The people were so welcoming!” “The local chapter opened their arms to us!” “What should we do?”

Reflecting on AACN and Debbie Brinker’s theme “Engage and Transform,” we dedicated the rest of our meeting to just that. “It” began at our Charlestowne, South Carolina chapter meeting in the fall of 2005. “Let’s make a donation post-Katrina.” Then like a bulb emerging from the earth in the spring, the ideas came, “We’ll sponsor a nurse … let’s see if national can waive registration … make it a national challenge!” E-mails began from our chapter to our regional chapter adviser and the AACN national office. Reflecting back to that meeting, we all voted in agreement that even if we were the only chapter that made such a donation to sponsor a nurse for 2006 NTI, it would be worthwhile. Yet we knew that would not be the case with a national challenge.

As we went our separate ways, one by one those magic words came from each of us. “Engage and transform” our chapter president said as we nodded in agreement. “Engage and transform” we replied. The result: Our challenge raised $19,000 so that 19 New Orleans nurses could travel to the NTI.
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