About One DNP

I earned my "terminal practice" degree in nursing from the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in a journey of excitement and challenge. It inspired me to advocate for an all encompassing clinical credential rather than continuing the hodgepodge of nonsensical initials. I hope these entries will provide entertainment and insight into the Doctor of Nursing Practice experience, which will soon be the entry standard for all advanced practice nurses.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My First Task Force!: APNA State Chapter Operations

I had the privilege of being invited to a task force to brainstorm methods of enhancing APNA chapter operations. The room was packed with national board members, current and former state chapter presidents, and colleagues and staff members I had previously only known through email or member forums.  This meeting of the minds began with a few key aphorisms:

“Opinions are not facts until proven” 

“Loud and passionate people can be wrong” (can you say “Facebook?!”)

“A camel is a horse designed by a committee” 

Following brief introductions was a legal discussion on incorporation status, state and local laws, chapter duties, tax exemptions, 501(c) classifications, lobbying activities, and income categorization. If this sounds dull, guess again. This presentation confirmed my suspicion some of the activities of one of my other professional organizations has been performing “substantial lobbying activities” and clarified the core purpose of APNA:

To be the unified voice of psychiatric-mental health nursing

Well that’s nice, but how does that happen? Through value propositions.  APNA has identified 3 key branding features:
  • ·      Community (make me feel good as part of the crew)
  • ·      Commitment (don’t screw me over and keep your promises)
  • ·      Content (give me something meaningful that I can use)
In order to make the individual state needs merge with the overall mission of the “mother ship.” Given that membership numbers have doubled over the past 6 years and retention rates have risen by 15%, we are doing quite well on the national level. State chapter involvement and operations are more variable, and I am ashamed to admit I have not been as active in Kentucky as I should be. The relationship with state chapters is bidirectional – the national mission trickles down and tailored to apply to local issues, while the individual state matters diffuse upward and are encompassed by the whole. So how do we improve operations and encourage coalescence? Our breakout group came up with 3 areas to focus our efforts and match our core values.

Technology (Advancing Community)
            In addition to our active member bridge, the APNA website offers a number of fantastic tools and social media platforms to aid in chapter operations, however, the technology is not utilized to it’s full potential and there are knowledge gaps among members. Webinars, one-on-one tutorials during national and state conferences, and use of virtual conferencing can bridge these knowledge gaps, further connect the community, and disseminate information faster, more comprehensive manner than previous platforms including mailers and email. There is value in face-to-face networking and interpersonal communication (my tutorial on bourbon with Bud Crouch would not have happened or been nearly as entertaining in Go-to-Meeting) and technology should be used as an enhancement and expansion, not absolute substitution.

ADVANTAGES: The efficient use of communication technologies to disseminate information among members and increase communication among individules, board members, chapters, and APNA national are significant advantages. Platforms are continually developed to be more intuitive for ease of use, which can help decrease generational gaps in knowledge.  APNA has been diligent about keeping costs low and maintaining an in-house staff of tech savvy individuals.

HURDLES:  Maintaining situational awareness of emerging technologies, providing education, and performing outreach to members requires significant time investment. Resistance due to reasons of privacy, lack of proficiency, and lifestyle are barriers for engagement by members.

Standardization (Preserving Commitment)
There are toolkits and staff available to aid in chapter operations, yet there remains significant variability in many processes such as meeting agendas, elections, and communication with APNA national. Clear, concise, consistent guidelines for major chapter operations and functions should be developed, but allow flexibility for local variation to expand on the roles and goals of specific state issues.

ADVANTAGES:  A common ground for operations provides security for board members when they assume a position and for all members to experience a consistent, organized environment that will be familiar when visiting or transferring chapters.  It prevents “reinventing the wheel” every time a new board is elected so that time can be better spent on education, advocacy, and networking.

HURDLES: With standardization change and a real or perceived loss of control, particularly in chapters already active and well organized. Coming to agreement on optimal balance of protocol and individuality is time consuming with potential to be too vague or too rigid.

Recruitment/Retention (Enhancing Content)
The big question for joining any membership with dues is “what’s in it for me?”  This can be anything from personal recognition, CEU and professional development opportunities, networking, discounts, collaboration, or professional updates. APNA is supposed to represent all members, not just advanced practice members or the most active chapters. While not an organization with a primary purpose of political activism, more members input from mental health nurses in every area of practice and all manner of nursing license is essential to provide the most accurate representation of our interests as a whole.

ADVANTAGE: Participants active at the local and national level become more competent, invested providers, which translate to better care and advocacy for our patients.  More members result in increased ideas, greater reach of applicability for national agendas, public awareness, and professional strength.

HURDLE: As an organization, membership and involvement have been on an upward trend and this may not be the most urgent area to focus chapter efforts.  In a down economy, membership dues may not bee viewed as a value-added expense.