President’s Award: Western New York Chapter

The Western New York Chapter of AACN has “dared to dream” of reorganization, rejuvenation, education, collaboration and creating a Healthy Work Environment for critical care nurses in our region and beyond. 

Dare To Reorganize: The WNY Chapter was on the brink of disbandment in March 2011. Two local ambassadors attended the Regional Ambassador Conference in North Carolina and were challenged to revive the chapter. That started our journey on a series of “Dare To” initiatives.

Our first dare was to think outside our comfort zone and reorganize a chapter that was essentially nonfunctional.

We dared ourselves to delve into the AACN website and contact the Rochester area chapter friends we had met at the conference for guidance. With their support, we began our next “Dare To.”

Dare To Rejuvenate: We started with six members at our first restructuring meeting in July 2011. The previous board members resigned, except for the treasurer.

We selected new officers from those present, retaining the current treasurer. We sent out bulk mailings and emails to known national members and campaigned by word of mouth.

Our belief in AACN fueled the fire to pursue excellence in critical care nursing. We dared to dream of having an election — and having enough members to hold an election.

In January 2012, we held our first strategic planning meeting with 12 members attending. We were thrilled.

In February 2012, we dared to take a risk and sponsored an educational dinner meeting at a local restaurant to promote membership. We embraced the idea that meetings could be educational and fun simultaneously.

The response was overwhelming. We had 70 people attend, and membership skyrocketed. Our dreams were coming true.

In May 2012, two of our members attended the Leadership Development Workshop at NTI. They gained valuable tools to continue the dream. In June 2012, we held our first election, and in July, we had our first needs assessment, which resulted in completed surveys from 60 members.

We continue to send routine emails to members regarding upcoming events and answer each inquiry personally, promoting AACN’s mission.

Dare To Educate: We are committed to provide monthly educational meetings for our chapter to promote lifelong learning. We dared to pursue those topics and venues that were requested by our members.

We believe that the chapter’s focus is centered on our members’ needs and ultimately is about the patients we care for. We strive to provide the gold standard of evidence-based practice for members to bring back to their workplace.

We dared to dream to cross the lines of hospital affiliation and have joined as one collaborative body of nursing professionals to benefit our patients in all of western New York.

Each month we dedicate a portion of the meeting to education and dialogue about Healthy Work Environments. Each of the six HWE elements is discussed for two months, and members are encouraged to share their experiences.

We have a newly awarded Beacon unit at a local hospital.

We challenge members to dare to engage in the chapter’s activities and vision. Monthly, we give members the opportunity to present parts of the meeting, and they are steadily becoming more involved.

The board welcomes suggestions from members. We are planning our first fundraiser for an educational fund that helps members attend NTI. We are giving four scholarships this year.

We dared to promote certification among our members. We have 10 new certifications this year.

We use social media to reach different generations of nurses by updating our website and adding a Facebook account. We added PayPal as a method of payment for meetings and membership to help secure solid financial stewardship.

We circulate a newsletter each quarter highlighting educational events, achievements and other upcoming chapter events.

Dare To Collaborate: We have dared to reach beyond our own chapter borders and are collaborating with a local hospital to promote excellence in education. We are partnering with that facility to have an all-day educational event that includes our AACN national president Kathryn Roberts as keynote speaker.

We have dared to increase communication, knowing it is the key to chapter stability both present and future. We have frequent board meetings, due to our exponential growth, and wrap-up meetings after each monthly educational event.

We participated with Nancy Freeland, our chapter advisor, on a conference call to encourage a struggling chapter in our region, using our story as an example of overcoming obstacles.

Dare To Reach Out to Community: We have incorporated community service as an important part of our chapter meetings. Considering the results of our needs assessment, we donate to a different organization each month.

We offer donations of money and materials, as well as our time and talent. We have served spaghetti dinners at a cancer center and donated toys, food and money to other charities.

And we are planning a Habitat for Humanity adventure this spring. We have outstanding support from our members through their steadily increasing monthly donations.

Our chapter has grown from six members to 140 in one year. We average 60–70 attendees at our monthly meetings, which represent more than 20 facilities in WNY, positively affecting networking and patient care.

We have supported 12 different organizations through our community service efforts this year. We are providing for the future stability of our chapter by mentoring newer nurses for leadership roles, embracing student membership and displaying good financial stewardship.

We will continue to dare to dream that anything is possible in our pursuit of excellence!