A Community of Exceptional Nurses
For the past two years, White River Chapter (WRC) of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) had been declining in membership. The chapter had slowly become less visible, offered fewer educational activities and lacked cohesion and commitment among leadership.
Members were less active participants, leaving a small core of discouraged nurses burdened down with chapter work. In contrast to this year’s AACN theme, our 10-year-old chapter was not “standing tall,” but rather slumping into a crawl.
Shortly after NTI 2010, a new WRC chapter president stepped in with enthusiasm and energy. She encouraged us to consider the implications of this year’s theme and to “work on our posture” and stand tall in our chapter mission.
The visual image of Stan Tall delighted us! We were equally drawn by the underlying meaning of this year’s theme — to understand, articulate, and celebrate our role as critical care nurses. With new hope and focus, our board convened for a summer planning retreat.
Our posture check began with a “SWOT” analysis of our chapter’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. From a renewed understanding of AACN’s mission and vision, we crafted fresh, strategic goals. These goals included:
To identify ways of increasing chapter membership, we first completed a “needs assessment” with members and nonmembers in our target area. Results indicated that our chapter was not visible.
Through the creation of a social network site and the publication of a high-quality newsletter, our chapter visibility markedly increased. Word of mouth and “friend” requests proved to be effective advertisement for our social network site, while newsletters were sent to all members and to surrounding facilities.
Stan Tall provided a catchy visual image that fit our need for visibility perfectly. Stan Tall was a unique “signature” on many of our communication venues. Whenever nurses went on vacation, Stan went along; he especially enjoyed the Alaskan cruise with a member who sent back photos.
Several nurses created Stan’s sister, Be-A-Nurse. Stan and Bea became delightful spokespersons in our workplaces for the unique and significant work of professional nurses.
The board reinstituted the position of facility liaisons, members from various facilities in our chapter area who took responsibility for increasing chapter visibility locally. We quickly increased our number of facility liaisons from one to seven. We meaningfully recognized facility liaisons and empowered them to create enthusiasm for AACN in their workplaces.
We designed educational offerings to support critical care nurses in their daily practice. Believing “if you feed them, they will come,” we provided treats for each meeting. We met at various sites in our target area, in order to be easily available to all hospitals. We recruited members from a broad representation of institutions as a result of our educational sessions.
Believing that certification helps nurses stand above the crowd we took a bold step and contracted to provide a certification review course for nurse leaders, the first in our area. Furthermore, we meaningfully recognized nurses who earn AACN certifications.
One Fall Conference educational session was a Taste of NTI (National Teaching Institute). Our chapter members who had presented at NTI in 2010 shared their presentations for our chapter members. During the conference, attendees filled out cards telling how they “stood tall” in their everyday practice. We drew cards and read them aloud, so attendees could be inspired by their colleagues.
To promote strong chapter leadership, we focused job descriptions for board members on strategic goals and promotion of teamwork. We formed two work groups to develop a scholarship process and to pilot a board member transition process.
Our first scholarship was a paid trip to National Teaching Institute (NTI) in 2011; it was awarded to a progressive care nurse who was an AACN member but had never been to NTI.
Believing that strong chapters and chapter leaders give back to the community, we proudly have participated in community service events. We adopted one community agency, the Muncie Mission Ministries, which serves homeless men and families in need.
The Mission had recently built a new facility in our target area, but it was destroyed by fire shortly after its dedication. WRC led a fundraising event for the Mission and collected monetary donations can goods, cleaning supplies and books to replace supplies lost in the devastating fire.
In addition, at each educational event attendees have been encouraged to bring items for this institution. Furthermore, WRC members recruited sponsors and participated in the annual Mission’s “Walk-a-Mile in My Shoes.” They braved the frigid temperatures, ice and snow to further assist the agency by raising $405. This donation will be used by the Mission to address the physical and spiritual needs through food, shelter, Christian counseling and long-term recovery programs.
Amidst all the activities of this year, our board has experienced joy, pride, ownership and teamwork. WRC chapter members are leading vital discussions in professional local settings about autonomous nursing practice and our unique role on the health care team. Chapter board meetings are enjoyable, with a new infusion of fun and inspiration. While Stan, our silent mascot, never says a word, his posture and encouragement give us a rallying point to discuss our profession and celebrate our accomplishments, especially the accomplishments of WRC this year of 2011.
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