Monday August 20th 2018

Courage to shape our future

Recently, I came across a quote from Winston Churchill that puts into words what I saw firsthand at our House of Delegates (HOD) meeting in June.  It says, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, and courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

ANA President Karen Daley addresses delegates at HOD. Photo: Eddie Arrossi

Faced with an imposing roadmap of proposed transformational bylaws that would chart a new course for the future of our association, I was inspired by the courage of American Nurses Association (ANA) delegates to speak out on difficult and heartfelt issues and to listen patiently and respectfully to broad and differing points of view.  Whatever the delegates decided, I knew that ANA was already a better and stronger organization for this open and honest dialogue about our future.

The delegates took several bold steps toward re-shaping ANA, including updating and streamlining the governance of our association.  One major measure replaces the HOD with a smaller Membership Assembly as ANA’s governing and voting body. Another reduces the current 15-member board of directors to nine, retaining a designated seat for a staff nurse and a recent graduate.  Also, the delegates approved measures to dissolve the Constituent Assembly and Congress on Nursing Practice and Economics, and replace them with new ad hoc “Professional Issues Panels.”  As we begin to put these changes into practice, I would like to step back and reflect on why these changes are important and what they mean for our members.

The conversation on ANA’s future, which began in earnest last November at Constituent Assembly, grew from the reality that the world had changed dramatically over the past 30 years and so had nursing practice, integrating cutting-edge research and technology into every day practice.  As a result, ANA needed to change, too, or risk becoming irrelevant to its members.

ANA members need a strong association behind them — an association that is responsive in real time and can move quickly to keep up with the changing needs of nurses and the larger health care environment in which we practice.  So one of the first issues we needed to address was our governance structure, which had evolved over many years, and was now slow, costly, inefficient and low impact.

Hard as we may try, we were never going to be able to respond to members in a timely and meaningful way with a large and cumbersome governing body that met every two years.  In creating a leaner and more responsive Membership Assembly, which meets every year and can come together quickly if needed, we have taken a big, important step in providing nurses with the strong, efficient and effective association they need and deserve.

In addition, the new Professional Issues Panels approved by the delegates allow ANA to respond more quickly and effectively to emerging policy and practice issues.  They also provide opportunities for members to contribute in a way that is meaningful — a request I hear frequently from nurses at all levels of practice.  These time-limited panels will be comprised of nurses whose specific area of expertise is needed at any given time — and it will allow nurses to volunteer in a way that fits in with their busy professional and personal lives.  I can imagine panels will begin forming in the near future to take action on several important issues that impact nurses, patients and the public.

The actions taken by ANA delegates in June demonstrate the courage and commitment of a broad coalition of nurse members to make progress for nurses and for nursing.  As we roll out these changes, I would ask every member to always keep in mind why we have embarked on a course for change for our association — and that is to make ANA a stronger, more responsive and more effective advocate for nurses.

I look forward to working with all of you to make it happen.

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