Easterly, Linda R

It is an Honor to be standing before you today in this wonderful hall. As your President, it is my responsibility to report to the membership the status of our organization.

To quote one of my favorite authors, Charles Dickens -“It is the best of times; it is the worst of times.”

The Georgia Nurses Association has had a busy year with lots of activity…

Last November, the American Nurses Association brought their “BIG Bus” to Atlanta to promote the “Healthy Blood Pressure” Campaign! Over 50 Nurses-students to retirees-participated by taking Blood Pressures on the whole health continuum-from the homeless, to pre-schoolers on a field trip to international visitors. For two days the Atlanta news media provided outstanding press about the Georgia Nurses Association and Hypertension, but the best part was the camaraderie that was experienced by all those who participated!

This was a wonderful way for ANA to help with one of the US’ major health issues and also promote our organization!

ANA was back in Georgia in April! President Barbara Blakeney and Past-President Mary Foley were in Atlanta to present the CE program, “ANA & You.” I am sorry if you missed either of these two outstanding programs!

You have already heard from our own Dr. Debbie Hatmaker, who is the President of the Center for American Nurses. In this role she is providing outstanding leadership on the national level to the organization that serves individual, non-union nurses. It is always an honor to be in attendance at one of these meetings-her leadership as the first elected president of this organization has been instrumental in the numerous programs that this organization is providing to nurses across the nation!

Georgia also has the honor of being home to the President of the National Student Nurses Association, Rebecca Wheeler. Unfortunately, Rebecca’s schedule does not allow her to attend this convention, but she sends her regards!

Our commissions have been busy this year-please make the time to read the reports of each of these groups in the Booklet of Reports (pages 93-110). The Reference Committee is bringing forth four wonderful reports for our discussion and actions, while the Nominations Committee gave us an outstanding slate of candidates.

These are just a few of the highlights of 2005. Please review the Booklet of Reports to truly learn what has been happening within GNA this year!

I would publicly like to thank all the nurses who worked very hard to make all these events and activities possible. I would also like to thank the staff of the Georgia Nurses Association for all of their support on the numerous programs, events and meetings that they work so diligently to make all of us look so good!

The year 2005 also signifies another major milestone-the 25th Anniversary of the Georgia Nurses Foundation. This outstanding organization is responsible for scholarships and funding for so many unique areas of nursing. There is much to celebrate from this organization-although we have already recognized the president and past-presidents of the Georgia Nurses Foundation, let us thank them one more time for all they have given. The past leaders of GNF are Carol Rittenhouse, Pat Brown, Mary Long, Lynda Nauright (serving her 2nd term!), Catherine Futch, Ptlene Minick, and Tim Porter O Grady.

We applaud and thank you for all you have done over the years to make the GNF a strong and viable organization. The foundation has wonderful plans for the future that will greatly enhance the role of the Professional Nurse! Thank you to all that have given to the Georgia Nurses Foundation so that we can continue to grow and develop these avenues.

But while this expertise and experience are very valuable, the Georgia Nurses Association is also in need of revitalization. We are at a crossroads.

Who in this room is not “time challenged?” Meaning that we are all doing too much and never have enough time. Balancing our busy family lives and professional responsibilities becomes more challenging each day. Many of us in this room are in the “sandwich” generation-meaning we are helping to care for parents along with being responsible for children and/or grand children.

Our personal lives continue to demand more and more, and as professional nurses (unless you are fully retired) there is so much to keep up with. The day of the nurse doing his or her shift and going home to relax are long gone. There are committees, council assignments, reading of journals and school work for most nurses. So where does that leave the Georgia Nurses Association? At the same place as most organizations-losing members and losing money.

You are going to hear over and over that associations are struggling. They are struggling for members and funds. And the Georgia Nurses Association is in that same situation.

Last November, the leadership of this organization met at a retreat to set goals. With the 100-year anniversary of GNA in 2007-our group looked at where the organization was and what path we should take to be vibrant and relevant for the next decade.

We set the lofty goal of dramatically increasing our membership. A noteworthy goal, but the hard part is then putting words into action!

The Board of Directors tasked the Executive Committee along with the director of strategic planning to make it happen. Talk about an overwhelming task. We looked at each other, took two deep breathes, and said, “Where do we start?” We-Betty Daniels, Kay Gatins, Kay Hampton, Wanda Jones, Kathy Shaw and Debbie Hackman and I-started that very afternoon.

GNA has NEVER dramatically increased membership; it has been fairly constant for quite a while. We now have declining numbers, and knew we had a serious situation that would take time, energy and commitment to change.

We looked at:

* Other Nursing organizations,

* Other State Nurses Associations,

* The current literature about business and associations,

* Where and on what the GNA staff spends their time,

* What the Georgia Association of Nurses Students’ expect,

* What the newest members of nursing are interested in, and

* Research on the emerging workforce.

To say that this was overwhelming is an understatement.

We have spent the last 11 months, looking, studying, debating and educating ourselves about what is working and what isn’t in the Georgia Nurses Association.

In the best selling book, “Good to Great,” author Jim Collins relays a famous essay by Isaiah Berlin based on an ancient Greek parable about a fox and a hedgehog to discern between good versus great organizations.

When challenged, foxes run around frantically while hedgehogs roll up into tight balls. Berlin used this parable to divide people into two basic groups: foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity. Foxes are “scattered or diffused, moving on many levels,” never integrating their thinking into one overall concept or unifying vision.

Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. It doesn’t matter how complex the world, a hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas to simple-indeed almost simplistic-hedgehog ideas.

The Board is proposing a Hedgehog strategy to guide our organization-to focus on our mission.

This would be a simple, crystalline concept that flows from three questions:

#1- what can we be the best in the world at and equally important, what we cannot be the best in the world at?

#2-what drives our economic engine?

#3-what are we deeply passionate about?

Research validates that the good-to-great companies all had one thing in common; they focused only on those activities that ignited their passion.

The system may be working for you, but look around. There are empty chairs for delegates that AEE NOT here! Our districts-at best are struggling-most are going under. Three districts are already completely dysfunctional or inactive.

You are going to hear the sad facts, the “dirty little secrets” of our organization, that no one wants the world to know. From how few districts met the original deadline for having their delegate list reported to the headquarters (this was 7 of 19). There are only 7 District Honorees tonight-isn’t that pathetic? Are we saying that the other districts don’t have any special nurses they can honor? Look at your booklet of reports. There are 10 districts and some of the commissions without reports. I can go on, but you will hear more of these sad facts later this afternoon.

The other members of the Hedgehog Task Force and I have been visiting the districts around the state to start the dialogue on what type of structure can and will meet the needs of not only our current membership, but that would be flexible enough to entice the younger and/or newer members of our profession to join the Georgia Nurses Association.

I want YOU to answer the following questions:

* What have you done this year to make GNA a better organization?

* What have you gotten out of GNA this year?

* What is your passion in Nursing?

* Are you experiencing this in GNA? Shouldn’t you?

* What would you like to say GNA is?

* How do we get there?

OK – now you are starting to think outside of “our” box. We need to get our members and PROSPECTIVE members to identify what would encourage them to join and what is of value to them.

This comes down to looking at what these nurses’ passion really, truly is. Then we need to make it very convenient (not an hour’s drive) to meet and to share in this passion with other nurses! We need to utilize technology. If we are to be the leaders in nursing in Georgia, then we need to have the programs and activities that will tie all nurses together.

For those of us here-we are comfortable with our structure-but isn’t it sad that less than 200 of the over 94,000 registered nurses in the state of Georgia are here today to discuss the issues of the professional nurse?

How many of you know the Georgia Nurses Association’s mission statement?

Well this is it, “GNA is nurses shaping the future of Professional Nursing and advocating for quality health care.” So are we doing what we say in our mission statement?

We will decide before this House of Delegates closes to move forward and make changes to allow the Association to grow and adapt so as to attract and retain our members, or we will elect to stay stagnant and continue to lose members.

GNA is financially strong TODAY, but where will this association be in five years if we continue to lose 3-5% of our members each year? Many of the state nurses associations are in that position, and they have to sell their buildings to pay the light bills! The nurses in Georgia have been the last in many categories over the years, but in many ways we have been the leader. We don’t need to be the last to change our structure to be adaptable for our members. Rather, we need to make the hard decisions now and lead our organization into the future.

The time is now. This organization, our organization, your organization is prime for change.

One of my favorite sayings is that change is good if it is your idea-your change. We can make this “our change” if everyone in this room decides that the Georgia Nurses Association should be adaptable and responsive to the professional nurses in Georgia. Then help us move this organization onward and upward.

Our proposals will redesign the organization to be less structured and more member-focused. We understand that this is scary for some members -particularly in the districts in the larger metropolitan areas.

Whether you want to stay in your current district situation or create new chapters, our dream is to have ALL nurses in Georgia asking how they get to belong to this dynamic and energetic organization!!!

As delegates, you have the responsibility to decide how this organization will move forward. Now is the time!

We need everyone to step up to this responsibility. Review the information!

Make an informed, educated decision.

And make sure that the bylaws state what WE truly need to do to make the Georgia Nurses Association THE professional nursing organization which represents all RNs in Georgia.

We can and will make this the best of times for the nurses in Georgia and the Georgia Nurses Association.

Thank You.

by Linda R. Easterly RN, BSN, MS President

Copyright Georgia Nurses Association Nov 2005-Jan 2006

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