Forging New Partnerships and Championing Change

Forging New Partnerships and Championing Change

Futch, Catherine J

The theme for AAACN’s 2004 conference, “Forging New Partnerships and Championing Change,”serves to describe the goals and challenges we face today as ambulatory care nurses. Most significantly, it shows how we seek ways to work together on strategies that will inspire much-needed changes in the workplace and in health care.

AAACN’s Board of Directors has always sought change for the better: for the association, nurses, and the system at large. As I leave my role as President, I see our work continuing under the dedicated leadership of Kathleen Krone, MS, RN, our new President. I handed Kathleen the gavel at the March AAACN conference in Phoenix, and I know AAACN members join me in wishing her well, joining Kathleen on the 2004-2005 Board are Sara Marks, CDR, NC, USN, and Charlene Williams, MBA, BSN, RN, BC. Beth Ann Swan, PhD, CRNP, begins a second term on the Board. Regina Phillips, MSN, RN, President-Elect; and Directors Carole Becker, MS, RN; Karen Griffin, MSN, RN, CNAA; and myself will support them. There will be much for us to do.

Challenges on Tap

The challenges facing all of us in 2004-2005 include the following:

* Continuing to evaluate the effectiveness of professional organizations for nurses in all settings. Change is occurring so rapidly that it becomes ever more critical to find fast and efficient ways to provide the information needed to cope in the evolving universe of health care. Even more important is the need to understand what a professional organization should be in terms of structure and in terms of understanding what its members really want and need.

* Culturally competent care becomes more and more important as the population make-up of the United States continues to change. The challenges center around two broad areas. The first is providing competent access to interpreters and translators for patients/families who have limited English proficiency (LEP). Significant data exist to support the sharp rise in risk when practitioners, nursing staff, and others are unable to accurately communicate with those who do not speak or understand the English language. The second challenge comes with the need to provide culturally competent care. Race and ethnicity are key factors in meeting the needs of a diverse population. The willingness of patients and families to follow the prescribed treatment regimen is directly related to the degree to which that treatment regimen is sensitive to their specific culture.

* Emergency preparedness continues to pose its own unique challenges and there are many complex issues to examine before we can stamp our organization ‘ready’ for a mass disaster. As we develop response plans for potential risks (virulent diseases, biological or chemical warfare, terrorist threats) one thing is clear: each employer organization must be connected to their local/state/national disaster plans.

* 2004 is a Presidential election year. There will be much debate about health care: access, level of care, and who will pay for what. The focus will be in two broad areas. First, access to health care for the poor and the uninsured or under-insured. Second, the cost of health care to employers and to individuals. Lots of questions will be raised and lots of promises will be made, but will real and lasting solutions be offered? Stay in touch with political agendas at the local, state, and national level. Don’t assume you aren’t touched in some way by the decisions being made, because you will be. Don’t assume you don’t need to be involved in or informed about decisions affecting health care payment and delivery because your voice and actions are crucial.

* Managing chronic illness will continue to take a frontrow seat for all of us. Acute illness and injury are usually quickly addressed and resolved. The real challenge comes with handling chronic illness (congestive heart failure, diabetes, hypertension, to name a few). Healthy life styles, individual ownership for health and well being, treatment protocols, and guidelines to help lessen variability in approaches to care will continue to take center stage as we look for ways to improve care, extend life expectancy and reduce cost.

* Redesigning the workplace is one of our most significant challenges. So many factors play a role in helping to create and sustain an environment that is attractive to professional nurses, support staff, patients, and families. These include:

1. Support by senior leadership

2. Well-prepared leaders and managers

3. Sufficient staffing and resources

4. Pay and benefits

5. Meaningful mentoring and support

6. The ability to thrive without the need to leave the profession

7. Retention

This last item – retention – is perhaps our greatest challenge. To attract and retain nurses who are engaged in the profession and in the care that must be provided to their patient population, we must focus on the workplace and on what it is like to be part of that workplace.

As is usually the case, we won’t be bored and we won’t be free of challenge. However, we will have ample opportunities to help shape the face of health care as it adjusts to the challenges that come with rapidly advancing technology, diverse patient populations, overburdened employers, escalating health care costs, declining access to health care, and the potential for man-made or natural disasters. There is great comfort in knowing that we, as nurses, are more than ready and capable of rising to the challenges we face.

Thank You to Members

Finally, thank you for allowing me to serve as your President. The Board of Directors and I have worked throughout the year to continue the work of those who came before us, to make our own unique contributions, and to pave the way for those who will come after us.

We have been a great team and you have been wonderful partners as you have provided input and offered your time and energy to help us with a variety of initiatives. Together we have made a difference. We will continue to do so as we move into another year.

Copyright American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing Mar/Apr 2004

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