Get the Most Out of Your Nursing Association Membership

Get the Most Out of Your Nursing Association Membership

Have you thought about joining a professional nursing association or are you already a member of one? Nursing associations offer a variety of member benefits including opportunities to network and grow your career through continuing education and conferences. It can be a worthwhile investment – if you make the most of your membership. It will impress your boss a lot more if you can say that you are active in your association versus just listing it on your resume.

Here are a few ways to make the most of your nursing association membership:

Take Continuing Education Courses

As a nurse, you should also be a lifelong learner. Some nursing associations like the American Nurses Association (nursingworld.org) offer continuing education courses at a discounted price for members.  Classes offered include Bullying in the Workplace: Reversing a Culture and Why Does Conflict Competence Matter?, among many others. 

These continuing education courses offer education in areas probably not covered while in nursing school and can give you guidance and confidence in working in healthcare settings.

Network, Network, Network

This is a given, but you should be networking with other RNs and joining an association is a great way to meet other nurses outside of your current place of employment. Share best-practices and gain a supportive network of other nurses passionate about the field.

If your association offers monthly meetings or other gatherings, be sure to attend. You will broaden your perspective and your network.

Volunteer

Does your association have local chapters, committees or events that need volunteers? Rolling your sleeves up is a great way to get to know other nurses, network and make a difference.

Connect with Other Minority Nurses

As a minority nurse, there are nursing associations targeted to specific ethnicities such as the National Black Nurses Association (nbna.org), the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (nahnnet.org) and the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association (aapina.org).

Joining a nursing association dedicated to minority nurses offers a gathering place for minority nurses to work together toward providing better patient care and outcomes for diverse patient populations.

For instance, the National Black Nurses Association’s mission is “to represent and provide a forum for Black nurses to advocate and implement strategies to ensure access to the highest quality of healthcare for persons of color.”

If you’re a brand new nurse or a veteran nurse, nursing associations have a lot to offer. Consider joining one and getting involved today. 

Denene Brox is a Kansas City-based freelance writer. 

Image credit: Stuart Miles / freedigitalimages.net

A Nurse, a Bike, and a Trek Across America

For Dr. Katherine Jeter, embarking on a 3,100-mile bicycle tour across the Unites States wasn’t about the athletic challenge. And it wasn’t about proving that she, at 72 years old, simply could. It was about raising awareness for the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN).

Jeter, a member of the society, decided to make the trek to help the WOCN Foundation raise awareness and $200,000 in scholarships to promote her specialty.

Wound, ostomy, and continence nursing encompasses colostomies, bowel and bladder disorders, non-healing wounds, and other related ailments. It also requires nurses become certified. With a growing elderly population in the United States, the demand for WOC nurses is high. Yet, the number of WOC-certified nurses is dwindling as they too retire. To further promote WOC nursing, Jeter will make stops along her journey to speak at small events.

The WomanTours bike ride will see Jeter biking as many as 111 miles in a single day, from March 4 until April 29 of this year. She will spend four days in California, six in Arizona, a whopping 17 in Texas, and so forth until she reaches the East Coast. But the end of that long journey is the beginning of more media engagements to raise awareness for WOC nursing. Those events will probably be a bit more relaxing for Dr. Jeter.

Bienvenido, enfermeras de Connecticut!

The Constitution State now has its own chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, new as of spring 2010! They’re eager to welcome new nurses interested in working toward improving the health care and quality of life of the Hispanic community. The organization promotes furthering nursing education, promoting and providing culturally competent care, and eliminating health disparities.

“As President of the Connecticut Chapter of NAHN, I am committed to providing an environment where we are all able to work together towards the same common goals of our National Association, and that is to increase the number of Hispanic/Latinos seeking nursing as a career,” says chapter President Maria D. Krol, M.S.N., R.N.C.-N.I.C. “We want our nursing students to find mentorship within an association that will help them enter the nursing profession and encourage them to further their education.”

“The time has come for Hispanic/Latinos to get involved to increase our numbers and to help improve the health of our communities,” Krol says. And you could be the next one to join. For more information, e-mail us at [email protected].

Taking the Helm

As the National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations (NCEMNA), the unique “association of associations” dedicated to eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities through the creation of a cadre of minority nurse scientists, moves forward into its second decade, who better to guide the continuation and expansion of its mission than Antonia M. Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN—one of the nation’s most preeminent nursing researchers, educators and minority health advocates?

Last March, Dr. Villarruel, the founding vice president of NCEMNA since its inception 11 years ago, became the coalition’s new president. She succeeds originating president Betty Smith Williams, DrPH, RN, FAAN, who led the organization for its first 10 years.

The National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations was founded in December 1998 to provide a strong, unified voice for all nurses of color, regardless of their different ethnicities. Its five member associations are:

  • The Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association (AAPINA)
  • The National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association (NANAINA)
  • The National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN)
  • The National Black Nurses Association (NBNA)
  • The Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA).

Dr. Villarruel, who is associate dean of research and the Nola J. Pender Collegiate Chair in Health Promotion at the University of Michigan School of Nursing in Ann Arbor, brings to NCEMNA’s presidency an extensive background in health disparities research and practice. She has held many national leadership positions, including president of NAHN (1996-1998) and co-chair of the Diversity Working Group of the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Advisory Council on Nursing Education and Practice. She has also served on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s HIV/STD/TB Prevention Advisory Council. In 2007 she was elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM), where she is working to shape national health policy on issues like health reform and HIV screening.

Dr. Villarruel, whose own research focuses on health promotion in Latino populations and HIV risk reduction interventions for Latino youth, has been recognized by numerous national and local organizations for her service and scholarship. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and in 2004 she was inducted into the Michigan Nurses Hall of Fame.

In an interview with Minority Nurse in fall 2009, Dr. Villarruel discussed NCEMNA’s history and accomplishments as well as future directions and her presidential goals. Here are some highlights of that conversation.

Q: Why was NCEMNA founded?

Eleven years ago, a group of leaders from the four founding minority nursing associations (NBNA, NAHN, AAPINA and NANAINA) who were attending the Third Invitational Minority Nursing Congress, “Caring for the Emerging Majority: A Blueprint for Action,” sponsored by the [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’] Division of Nursing, met informally and thought of an innovative strategy: to form a united coalition that would enable [the associations] to leverage their combined expertise. We saw the value of uniting to create one voice to advocate for equity and justice in nursing and in health care for all ethnic minority populations. When the Philippine Nurses Association of America learned about the coalition, it joined us, bringing the total number of member associations to five.

Q: As you look back on the early days of NCEMNA, what memories do you have?

Working with the intergenerational minority nurse leaders who helped found NCEMNA was a wonderful learning experience, both personally and professionally. I learned so much from wise and experienced older nurses who continue to be energetically committed to NCEMNA’s mission and vision, and who continue to share their rich legacies. Betty Smith Williams and Hilda Richards from the NBNA, Melen McBride from the PNAA and Mi Ja Kim from AAPINA are just some of the nurses who have shared their distinctive and valuable leadership experiences, challenges, styles and methods of negotiation and communication that have woven together to form our common voice.

Q: What were some of NCEMNA’s greatest accomplishments during its first decade?

The establishment and sustainability of the organization has been a great achievement [in and of itself. In terms of specific programs,] NCEMNA developed the Nurse Scientist Stimulation Project, through a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, to increase the number of minority nurse researchers [who can investigate solutions for eliminating racial and ethnic] health disparities. The Nurse Scientist Stimulation Project has developed mechanisms to support the researchers at all levels of their careers and has engaged ethnic minority nursing students to consider nursing research as a career.

[In 2003] the coalition received a grant from the Aetna Foundation to support the annual Aetna/NCEMNA Scholars Program, which provides nurse researchers with opportunities for learning and career advancement through mentorship experiences.

We also launched a Web site and created a database for minority nurse researchers and students, to help promote communication and exchange of ideas among current and potential NCEMNA researchers. In 2001 and 2002, NCEMNA published five white papers on the health status of ethnic minority populations, including recommendations for nursing research. The coalition also participated in two collaborative workshops with the National Institute of Nursing Research and presented “Eliminating the Nursing Shortage: Ethnic Minority Nurses, An Untapped Resource” at the national biennial convention of the American Nurses Association in 2002.

Since 2005, NCEMNA has held [its own] annual national conferences to mentor minority nurse researchers from each of the five member minority nurse associations. On the occasion of NCEMNA’s 10th anniversary, the coalition hosted a reception on November 1, 2007 at the congressional Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and celebrated with its supporters.

Q: Where is NCEMNA headed as it enters its second decade?

NCEMNA will continue its strong focus on research—developing [a network of] ethnic minority nurse scientists who will make a difference [in eliminating] health care disparities. Research was the vehicle that brought us together, and [it has enabled us to make] a strong impact.

However, NCEMNA also needs to be about more than research. For example, there is a clinical practice component in addressing health disparities.

We need to expand and advance into other areas. At this critical time, with all the changes and proposed changes in health care, we must be clear about [what needs to be done on behalf of minority nurses and communities] and have a voice around the health policy table. The biggest impact we can make is in the policy area.

Q: What are some of NCEMNA’s short- and long-term goals under your presidency?

Currently we are looking to secure funding for our ongoing initiatives and for future policy-related activities. We plan to continue as a force to advocate for minority nurses and minority populations, and to strengthen our core [member associations] and continue our synergistic relationship [with each other]. As a coalition of associations, we can only be as strong as our member organizations. NCEMNA strengthens the individual associations by providing resources and leadership opportunities, and we are strengthened by them.

Q: What are some of the challenges and rewards of working with different ethnic minority nursing associations?

Each group has a sense of pride in its own identity that each has fought hard to establish. It is a challenge for each individual organization to stay true to itself and maintain its uniqueness while working together with the other groups.

I treasure the unique characteristics and strengths that each member association has brought to NCEMNA: a strong sense of advocacy and moving forward from the NBNA; a deep sense of spirituality from the NANAINA; the camaraderie of the NAHN; a sense of respect from AAPINA; and an open and welcoming embrace from the PNAA.

The coalition’s success has been built on a mutual respect for each other’s history, struggles and contributions to nursing and to our respective communities. An important piece of this effort was our ability to sit around the table and, on a one-on-one basis, share stories and issues [relating to both our individual and common concerns and goals]. By coming together, we widened the circle of support that we have outside of our own organizations. The work [of building our collective relationship] is a continual effort of building trust and a solid base as we move forward together. We work very hard at this.

Q: Is NCEMNA looking to expand its membership to include other ethnic minority nursing associations?

We have five core member associations [representing populations] that are uniquely embedded in the history of this country and who have been historically underserved and discriminated against in the United States. We welcome other organizations but they would be considered in a different membership category. The National Association of [Asian] Indian Nurses of America, for example, has representatives participating in the Aetna/NCEMNA Scholars Program. Their membership came through the AAPINA, which includes nurses from India and Southeast Asia.

Q: What unique opportunities does NCEMNA provide for the minority nursing community?

As individual [nurses of color], we frequently find ourselves in the position where we are, or are expected to be, advocates for all minority nurses, students, patients and communities. So it makes sense to model this at a national level [by having an organization] that provides support and leadership for what [so many of us are already doing on an individual level in our workplaces and educational institutions].

Q: What does NCEMNA have to offer nursing in general?

NCEMNA is an important model for everyone in nursing, not just ethnic minority nurses and organizations. Our member associations, individually and collectively, create a vital link to medically underserved communities.

As a unified coalition, NCEMNA has been able to look at the things we share in common, rather than the things that make us different or set us apart. In nursing, there is often disagreement, even fighting, between different groups within the profession—for example, specialty areas of nursing. Instead of focusing on the things that divide us, NCEMNA believes that strength and collective power lies in speaking with one voice. To work together in this way takes commitment, energy and mutual respect. NCEMNA has demonstrated that we’ve been able to do this.

Q: NCEMNA is an excellent national model for how ethnic minority organizations in other fields and professions can work together. What advice can you give them?

What has worked for us may or may not make sense for other organizations. One of the things that helped us early on was the fact that many of our five member associations were already mature. They had a history and had worked through their own internal issues within their groups. Minority organizations that are newly forming have to go through this process before they can reach out to other organizations. They need to find their own common voice and agenda, form a stable organization and maintain their identity before they can move forward to work with other groups who are different.

Twenty years ago, NCEMNA would not have been able to achieve its accomplishments, because we [as individual minority nursing associations] weren’t ready. At this point in time, NCEMNA [and its member associations are] sure of who we are and what our membership base is. Now it’s time to see what we can do as we collaborate with others.

Following in Her Footsteps

Although it happened over 30 years ago, Henry Talley V, PhD, CRNA, MSN, vividly remembers the day he first met Goldie Brangman, CRNA, MEd, MBA, founder and director of New York City’s Harlem Hospital Center School of Anesthesia for Nurses.

“I was working as a nurse at Harlem Hospital and had met some of Goldie’s students from the anesthesia program,” he says. “I was so impressed with the work they were doing and the way they carried themselves that I immediately went to Goldie’s office to introduce myself and find out how I could enroll in her program.”

Talley remembers Brangman looking at him over the top of her glasses and asking if he understood the responsibilities of a nurse anesthetist. “Goldie is only 5 foot 2 but she always seemed larger than life,” he says. “When I told her I didn’t know much about nurse anesthetists, she told me not to come back until I did. The Internet didn’t exist [back then] so I did research at the library and read everything I could on the topic.”

After Talley completed his re-search, he returned to Brangman’s office. “I must have made an impression on Goldie, because she took the time to speak with me about how I could begin a career in nurse anesthesia,” he says. “I was a real inner city kid from the Bronx. That chance encounter with Goldie helped to save my life and proved to be the beginning of a career that I love.”

Today, Talley is the director of the nurse anesthesia program at Michigan State University College of Nursing and founder of Minority Anesthetists Gathered to Network, Educate and Train (M.A.G.N.E.T.). He is one of many minority CRNAs who credit Brangman with being not only their mentor but a pioneer who blazed new trails of opportunity for nurses of color and men in the field of nurse anesthesia.

An Inspiring Educator

In addition to her many contributions to the nurse anesthesia profession as an educator, author and clinician, Brangman was the first—and so far, only— African American president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), serving from 1973 to 1974. Today, at age 92, she lives on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where she remains active as a volunteer with the American Red Cross. She still attends the AANA’s Annual Meeting and keeps in touch with many of her former students, including Talley.

“Goldie is the greatest mentor any nurse could ever have,” he says. “She instilled confidence and pride in her students and taught us how important it was to become [actively] involved in our profession if we wanted to see change. With Goldie, failure was never an option.”

Talley took his teacher’s words to heart and went on to become the first African American to serve as director of a university nurse anesthesia program. He also plans to run for a national leadership position on the AANA board of directors.

“There are still not a lot of minority nurse anesthetists and I believe that’s due to a lack of awareness about the field,” Talley says. “Goldie encouraged her students to serve as role models. I’ve tried to follow in her footsteps and give back to a profession that’s been very good to me.”

Bobby Turner, a retired CRNA from Louisville, Ky., was one of Brangman’s students in the 1960s. He, too, continues to keep in touch with his former mentor. Turner says he was able to take many of the lessons learned in Brangman’s classroom and apply them in his own career.

“Goldie expected a lot from her students but she was also very supportive of us,” he adds. “She taught us that we needed to make pre-op rounds in addition to the anesthesiologist. Working in pediatrics, I found that introducing myself to children before surgery and talking to them about the procedure helped to ease their fears.”

Brangman also impressed upon her students the importance of becoming involved in the AANA. “I remember Goldie taking her students to the AANA national conference,” Turner says. “Now, even though I’m retired, I continue to attend the conferences every year.”

Finding Her Calling

Goldie Brangman graduated from Harlem Hospital Center’s nursing program in 1943 and went on to accept a nursing job at the hospital. But ironically, she was almost ready to give up on nursing as a career before finding her true calling as a nurse anesthetist.

Goldie Brangman (seated, center) with the 1974 graduating class of Harlem Hospital Center School of Anesthesia for Nurses. She founded the program in 1951 and directed it for 34 years.

“Right before World War II began, I had made the decision to leave the nursing profession,” she remembers. “I hated bedside nursing with a passion. At the time, black nurses were asked to do tasks that a white nurse would never have been asked to do.”

When the U.S. entered the war, many of Harlem Hospital’s phys-ician anesthetists were recruited for active duty. To fill the gap, the hospital began seeking volunteers to train as nurse anesthetists.

“The residents and surgeons trained us in all aspects of anesthesia,” Brangman says. “I really enjoyed the work. Unlike many nursing jobs, [in nurse anesthesia] you have a beginning and an end—you put the patients to sleep and you later have the satisfaction of seeing them wake up and begin the recovery process.”

When Harlem Hospital decided to establish a school for nurse anesthetists in 1951, the administration asked her if she would be interested in leading the program. Brangman welcomed the opportunity to open one of the first nurse anesthesia education programs in the country that boasted a diverse student body.

“There weren’t too many schools at the time that admitted blacks, men or students from foreign countries,” she explains. “We would hold dinners each weekend and try different foods representing one of our students’ diverse ethnic backgrounds.”

Because she believes anesthesia is a specialty that can’t be learned solely from a textbook, Brangman encouraged her students to gain real-world experience. “Working in the clinical field isn’t something my students would do only at the completion of the program,” she says. “I stressed the importance of learning how to take the pulse of a real person and of making pre-op rounds where they could introduce themselves to their patients [and get to know them].”

Integrating the AANA

In addition to her many achievements as director of the Harlem Hospital Center School of Anesthesia for Nurses (where she also held the positions of director of continuing education for the departments of anesthesia and respiratory therapy), Brangman was the first African American CRNA to break through barriers of prejudice to become a nationally recognized leader in her field. She was elected president of the New York Association of Nurse Anesthetists in 1959 and later served on AANA’s national board of directors—first as treasurer from 1967 to 1969, then as president in 1973-74.

“I was the first woman of color in a leadership position in the AANA, and as a result I had to run for every AANA office at least twice,” Brangman says.

She was also the first AANA president to give a theme to her presidential year, calling it the “Year of Communication.” During her term, she strived to achieve more open and effective communication between the AANA and its members, the public, legislators and other health care organizations. She also brought about some much-needed changes in the association’s organizational structure and management.

“Before my term as president, the AANA had been more [like] a social club,” Brangman says. “I accomplished my goal of making it more of a business.”

She remembers walking into the AANA offices at the beginning of her term and seeing membership dues sitting unopened in a basket. “One of the first things I did was hire a full-time bookkeeper.”

Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, Brangman says issues of racial inequality continued to exist in the nursing profession in the 1970s. “There were many times I would look around at the Annual Meeting and see only a sea of white faces. We were able to dramatically increase the number of male anesthetists in the AANA, but racial integration took much longer.

“We had a black CRNA [member] who lived in the South but was only allowed to attend national meetings, not those offered in her state,” Brangman continues. “I remember being asked to speak at a meeting in Alabama in the 1970s. When I walked in the front door of the hotel, almost everyone [just about] had a heart attack. Despite being the only black nurse at many meetings, I was determined to be there.”

Passing the Torch

After completing her presidential term, Brangman continued to provide innovative leadership to AANA in her capacity as past president. She introduced workshops on quality assurance and helped write the first AANA Quality Assurance Manual. In addition, she initiated the introduction of workshops on regional anesthesia (local anesthesia administered to a specific part of a patient’s body) at the AANA Annual Meeting and was one of the first educators to teach regional anesthesia techniques, both in her Harlem Hospital Center anesthesia program and at many state and national AANA meetings.

Today she sees a continued need for more minority nurse anesthetists to follow in her footsteps by taking on leadership roles within the AANA, serving as mentors and encouraging more nurses from underrepresented populations to pursue careers in anesthesia.

“The AANA hasn’t had another president of color since I served,” Brangman points out. “More minority [nurse anesthetists] need to run for leadership positions.”

Fortunately, Brangman’s inspiring presence is motivating a new generation of nurse anesthetists to follow her example of being a visible mentor and giving back to the profession. Nowadays, minority CRNAs such as Talley and Wallena Gould, CRNA, MSN, founder and chair of the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program, are carrying on her tradition.

Gould first met Brangman at an AANA meeting in 2003 and now considers her a mentor. “Until I met Goldie I didn’t know the AANA had once had a minority president,” she says. “She’s a true trailblazer and I can’t imagine everything she had to overcome to achieve all of the milestones in her career.

I was a single mom working as an operating room nurse when I first met a black nurse anesthetist and learned about the profession,” Gould continues. “Several nurse anesthetists of color, including Goldie, had a great impact on my career. I believe it’s important to empower and mentor future minority nursing students through programs such as the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program.”

Coming Full Circle

Brangman’s lifelong commitment to increasing opportunities for nurse anesthetists has earned her some of the profession’s highest honors. In 1983 she received the AANA’s Helen Lamb Outstanding Educator Award. The association honored her again in 1995, presenting her with the Agatha Hodgins Award for Outstanding Accomplishment. The award, which bears the name of the AANA’s founder and first president, recognizes individuals “whose foremost dedication to excellence has furthered the art and science of nurse anesthesia.”

Although Brangman left her position as director of the Harlem Hospital Center School of Anesthesia in 1985 and moved to Hawaii to retire, she is still making a difference in people’s lives. Four days each week, she volunteers for eight hours a day as a health consultant to the Hawaii State Chapter of the American Red Cross. In many ways, her life has come full circle.

“As a student nurse in the 1940s, I was sent out with a tin can to collect donations for the Red Cross on the streets of New York,” Brangman says. “[When I moved to Hawaii I had planned on just being retired], but instead I was talked into volunteering. I’ve worked with the Red Cross in a number of different capacities for the past 69 years.”

Ad