AACN News—August 2008—Chapters

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Vol. 25, No. 8, AUGUST 2008

The 1st Commandment: Know Thy Members

By Cindi Noe, RN, MSN, Chapter Advisory Team, former Co-Lead

As a former chapter adviser, I often listened to the frustration of local leaders about the lack of member participation in chapter activities. Leaders would be really excited about an event and plan it to a “T,” but then be disappointed when attendance fell short of their expectations. In responding to these leaders, the first question I ask is “tell me about your chapter assessment process?” As all good nurses know, a thorough assessment of the patient/family is an essential strategy in the care of the patient; and the same should hold true for an AACN chapter. An effective assessment strategy for a chapter board is a survey.

A carefully worded survey can provide such information as preferences for meetings dates/times; educational needs; and knowledge of key AACN initiatives. Paper surveys are great, but can be time consuming to develop, distribute and tabulate. Online services such as Survey Monkey and Zoomerang are excellent tools that allow you to create, distribute, collect and analyze responses very quickly. They are fairly intuitive to do yourself, or it would be a great project for someone who is taking a nursing research, leadership or informatics course through their college. Contact your local college to see what resources may be available. A member can get community service points and college credit at the same time; plus doing a project that directly benefits the community will be more meaningful. Your hospital QI or marketing departments may also be good resources.

Once the data is collected, the chapter leaders can analyze the information such as response rates for questions (e.g., 69% would attend a meeting if held on a Monday; 74% prefer to receive information via e-mail and 20% liked flyers posted at work; 88% are not members of the local chapter because no one invited them to join). Most survey companies provide tools that allow for drill-downs into the data in order to correlate questions to better understand member needs: best time for a meeting vs. shift worked; what members vs. nonmembers believe about community standards; who’s more likely to attend a certification class - members from Hospital X or Hospital Y.

You may be as surprised about what you might find as our chapter was when we asked nurses to prioritize chapter initiatives. Board members believed the highest priority would be for the chapter to offer in-services. In actuality, promotion of high-quality standards was first, and promoting Healthy Work Environment standards was second. These and other such findings provided the local board with the information needed for its annual strategic planning session.

Just like a good physical exam helps the nurse determine the care needs of the patient, a good survey can help a chapter determine its strategic plan for the coming year. Chapter activities need to be driven by the needs of the community, and a well-crafted survey can provide a chapter with a wealth of information. For an example of tools, check out the Document Repository on the AACN Web site at www.aacn.org > Community > Chapters > Document Repository > Chapters Best Practices – Needs Assessment.

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The Role of the CAT – Part 2

By Jan Teal, RN, BC, MSN, CCRN, Chapter Advisory Team Co-Lead, and Cindi Noe, RN, MSN, former Co-Lead

Last month we explained the role of the chapter adviser (CAT) and shared examples of how a CAT assisted with a Region 14 meeting by providing information and strategies, and we highlighted how a CAT helped the Heart of the Piedmont Chapter avoid disbanding and refocus on its purpose and priorities. This month we will share two more examples of how CATs have assisted chapters to be successful.

In the fall of 2006, the chapter advisers from Regions 13 and 16 hosted a collaborative regional meeting in Fargo, N.D. The meeting featured the Beacon standards of excellent quality of care for the critically ill and their families. Inspired, local chapters such as the Central Minnesota Area (CEMA) Chapter, brought the information to their peers. Nurses at St. Cloud Hospital were excited about the strategies for improving quality and patient outcomes in their own units and began the process of comparing their unit’s performance to the Beacon standards. In the spring of 2007, the Intensive Care Unit received the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence. “We’ve always used AACN standards of care as a basis of our practice,” said Donna Kamps, CEMA Chapter president and ICU critical care educator. “The Beacon Award just affirms what we already believed about the care that we provide. Having the CAT as a resource was invaluable as we went through the process.”

As another example, Linda Lowe, the Southwest Georgia (SOWEGA) Chapter president for 2006-07 was excited after learning about the AACN Standards for a Healthy Work Environment (HWE) during a presentation at a Region 6 Leadership Development Workshop (LDW) and wanted to bring those standards to her hospital. She provided local critical care nurse leaders with copies of the HWE Standards. Nurse leaders at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital saw the value of the standards and incorporated them into their strategic plan for nursing. Six other local nursing organizations (AMSN, AWHONN, ENA, GA-ASPAN, GA-ONL and ONS) partnered with the SOWEGA Chapter on an HWE Conference. Debra Williamson, VP of Critical Care Services, feels the Silence Kills research and the HWE Standards are helpful tools for starting meaningful dialogue. “It’s a nonthreatening way to open the door to effective and sustainable change.” The conference was a huge success, and the SOWEGA Chapter was honored with a 2008 Circle of Excellence Award for Chapter Collaboration.

Chapter advisers serve a two-year term, with approximately half of the 19 terms ending each June. Recruitment for new CATs for FY2010 (July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010) will begin in October 2008. If you are interested in applying to become a chapter adviser (CAT), please update your Volunteer Profile. Go to www.aacn.org > Membership > Community > Volunteer Opportunities > Access Your Volunteer Profile. Enter your member ID and password. Under Area and/or Topics of Interest, select Chapter. Then under Specialty or Type of Role, select Advisory Team. You will then receive an invitation in October to apply for a chapter adviser position.

CATs are available to assist and advise your chapter in any way they can to help chapters be successful. Please contact them, or the national office, whenever your chapter has questions or needs guidance. To contact your CAT e-mail Region#@aacn.org, or contact the national office at chapters@aacn.org; (800) 394-5995, ext. 365 or 313.

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Chapter Listserv Hot Topics

The Chapter Listserv continues to be a great chapter community forum for chapter members and officers to discuss issues and share best practices. Discussions are varied, and there’s no topic that’s off-limits as long as it relates to chapter management. Hot topics that we’re sharing with you this month include:

• Conference or Educational Trends
• Impact of Free CEs on Chapter Meetings

Conference or Educational Trends

One of the main goals of chapters is continuing education for their members.

But what topics generate the most interest? Are members looking for certification reviews, information on Leadership, the Beacon Award, Healthy Work Environments, Evidence-Based Practice, or something else? That was a question posed on the Chapter Listserv. The number one response was CCRN and PCCN Review Courses, as certification is a top priority for many nurses.

Remember to customize your particular chapter’s educational plan to meet your members’ needs. What’s important for one chapter may be different than what another chapter needs.

Impact of Free CEs on Chapter Meetings

It has been about a year since AACN announced that members would no longer be charged for CEs. At that time several chapters were concerned that attendance at their chapter meetings where educational programs were offered would drop off because of that change. So has it?

Several chapters responded that not only did attendance not drop off, but in some instances it has improved:

“While we seem to struggle with an increasingly competitive marketplace and getting attendees at events, I don’t think that free CEs have negatively impacted us. In fact, we probably have MORE local members who have been attracted to national membership because of free CEs and then opt to join local as well for a discount on an event or simply because it is relatively cheap and they are already a national member. We are working to further incentivize local membership - e.g., offering free education at events, sponsored events, etc.”

Elizabeth Mattox, President (FY2008)
Mountain to Sound Chapter
Seattle, Wash.

“We have not seen a drop in our monthly meeting attendance this past year. There are still a lot of members who talk about going to the monthly meetings for the social, face-to-face interaction. Our restaurant meetings are usually well attended where we have a maximum of 50 because of space availability.”

Divina Sirokie, BSN, RN, CCRN
Immediate Past President
Broward County Chapter
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

We invite all chapter members and officers to join and use the Chapter Listserv.
Go to www.aacn.org > Community > Chapters > Chapter Listserv. Other resources available to you are your Chapter Advisory Team CATs, as well as the Chapter Department staff at the National AACN office. E-mail us at chapters@aacn.org or
call us toll free at (800) 394-5995, ext. 365 or 313.

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What’s on Tap?


Region 6 will present the “5th Annual AACN Symposium” Sept. 28-30 at the Marriott Century Center, Atlanta. For more information, contact Mary Zellinger at (404) 712-4661; mjzelli@emory.edu.


The West Michigan Chapter will present a two-day “Certification Cram (PCCN and CCRN)” Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at the Grand Rapids Airport Hilton, Grand Rapids. For more information, contact Barb Rogers at (616) 752-7055; wmc.info@aacn.org.

New Mexico

The Albuquerque Chapter will present the “Annual AACN Symposium” Aug. 15-16 at the Elegante Hotel, Albuquerque. For more information, contact Heidi Radke at (505) 268-1583; hskrgrl@msn.com.

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AACN Chapters’ Main Concerns

The new fiscal year started July 1 with many new chapter officers. On the Chapter Listserv we asked what are the biggest concerns for your chapter’s incoming president. What resources do you need? And, how can AACN help you? The chapter leaders’ main concerns were identified as follows:

• Recycled board members – need to get more members involved in leading the chapter; fresh ideas.

This is where understanding the needs of your chapter membership is important. But beyond that, you might consider offering “shadowing” opportunities to give members a chance to see what a position would be like before they decide whether to run for a leadership role. Other ideas include: succession planning for leadership roles (see the various succession planning PowerPoint presentations at www.aacn.org > Community > Chapters > Document Repository – Chapters Best Practices-Succession Planning), recruiting new members, and identifying interest in leadership roles and talent within the chapter. Develop a talent identification program and reward leaders for involvement. Some chapters utilize point systems to reward active participation.

• Not knowing what to do as chapter president; what’s my role?

Job descriptions for each chapter officer are available on the Web site at http://www.aacn.org/WD/Chapters/Docs/HowToStartChapter.pdf.

Ideally, the chapter president was last year’s president-elect and became familiar with the duties of the president. The president-elect should have worked collaboratively with the president, so he or she would be ready to take over as president. But circumstances could be different, resulting in the new president not having that opportunity. In those cases, it’s helpful to contact other board members and your chapter adviser (CAT) for guidance.

• Chapter leadership transition plan – the current board didn’t receive any guidance from the previous board, and we are having a difficult transition.

Succession planning and having a transition plan to help the new chapter leadership are vital in keeping chapters successful. AACN is developing a Chapter Officer Transition Module that will be available on the chapter Web site. Until then, you might want to contact the previous board members and meet with them. If that’s not an option, your CAT is available to help – just ask.

What is your chapter’s biggest concern? It doesn’t matter if your chapter’s officers are seasoned or new, your Chapter Advisory Team (CAT) and the national office are here to support you in whatever you need as you carry out AACN’s mission through the key initiatives of certification, healthy work environments and Beacon.

On the other hand, we know that many chapters have encountered and conquered these same types of problems. If your chapter is one of them, please share your journey of success with us so we can share it with other chapters and help build a library of chapter best practices.

We encourage chapters to contact us whenever they need assistance. Contact your CAT at Region#@aacn.org, or the national office at chapters@aacn.org or toll-free at (800) 394-5995, ext. 365 or 313.

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