As a national AACN board member, I am privileged to travel as a representative of our organization and meet with many of you in different parts of the country. On several occasions, members have asked: “What does it take to serve on the national AACN Board of Directors?”
AACN’s Leadership Competencies, which outline the skill set desired of candidates, are only part of the answer. Those considering candidacy must also consider the many hats they wear in their daily lives. A variety of roles including spouse, parent, nurse, student, community/professional volunteer, friend, and even animal caretaker may define our lives. So, when answering the “what does it take” question, I respond: “It takes a village.”
Self-reflection about personal and professional support systems is essential for those considering candidacy for the AACN Board of Directors.
Although AACN tries to minimize the amount of travel required of board members, time away from home is still necessary. Because travel has been reduced, meetings are jam-packed with important association work. For that reason, taking your loved ones with you to a meeting is impractical, and may interfere with your ability to focus on the needs of the association. So, when considering a board appointment, it is important to consider the support systems that exist—in the places where you hang your many different hats—for covering and managing absences that are related to association work.
When deciding whether to seek election to the AACN board, my first consideration was my family. Would my husband and two daughters be supportive of my travel schedule and additional workload? I found my family to be not only supportive, but proud that I might have the opportunity to serve my profession in this capacity. Of course, it means that my family (especially my husband) is burdened with additional responsibilities. But my husband is one wonderful “Mr. Mom,” as well as a terrific friend. As for my girls, well teenagers are teenagers, but nevertheless I think they are pretty special. They have been great supporters of my AACN involvement, even though it means that I may miss an important event at school, an activity, or one of their games.
My second consideration was my work environment. Would my AACN travel time and involvement be supported? Would a professional contribution of this type be valued? As a neuroscience clinical nurse specialist, I apply my expertise in an academic setting that provides me an opportunity to practice, conduct research, publish, and mentor both graduate and undergraduate nursing students. I am blessed that my department chair, dean, associate deans, secretaries, and faculty peer group value my professional contributions to AACN.
I had other considerations as well. As a doctoral student, I had to consider whether my adviser and faculty would support my absences from the classroom or my need to slow the pace of my progress in the program. Again, I was fortunate because my AACN involvement was considered an asset to the program.
Even friendships are challenged when your schedule takes on the life of an AACN board member. Fortunately, most of my closest friends are AACN Houston Gulf Coast Chapter members. But often my attendance at chapter meetings is disrupted by my travel schedule. Although we may live only a few minutes apart, my friends would be the first to admit that our big opportunities for sharing quality time are usually at national AACN events such as the National Teaching Institute.™
Lastly, I had to consider my horse. Knowing that I would have limited time meant that my trainer would have to assume primary responsibility for him. Fortunately for both of us, he and she are getting along beautifully.
The intent of this column is not to discourage members from seeking a national board position, but to highlight what is often overlooked as a necessary and significant part of the self-assessment process. Clearly, not everyone is able to serve at this level because of the support that is required behind the scenes. There certainly is nothing wrong with that. AACN offers numerous opportunities for volunteer service that require much less involvement and workload.
However, I think it is important to acknowledge the exceptional support behind those of us who sit on the AACN Board of Directors. We are not often afforded the opportunity to formally say “thank you” to our supporters. In fact, their contribution is relatively invisible to many.
I hope that this message will serve as a “thank you” not only to my supporters, but also to those unsung heroes behind each member of the national AACN Board of Directors. Our contributions are possible because of a true dream team of supportive villagers.
Note: Wojner wanted to acknowledge her personal dream team: Eric, Corinne, and Alexis Wojner; the University of Texas, Houston School of Nursing, Department of Acute and Continuing Care, and in particular? Cheryl Levine, Patricia Stark, Theresa Carroll, Gwen Sherwood, Marianne Marcus, Sandy Hannemann, Jane Chang, Bonnie Juneau, Gerda Gomez, Ginger Kee, Dorothy Otto, Elda Ramirez, Moira O’Neill, Joanne Hickey, Frank Cole, Sherry Elston, Pam Nugent; Peggy Rose and students; Texas Woman’s University—Anne Young, Diane Ragsdale, and Lynn Wieck; the Houston Gulf Coast Chapter-AACN; Jan Foster, Greta Grady, Mary Lou Warren, Becky Aulbach, and Jill Jesurum; horse-trainer extraordinaire, Sharon Wellmann; and Rocky.