Getting Involved in Nursing Organizations

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Getting Involved
where you can influence the future of nursing

Recently, I attended a District 7 meeting of the Florida Nurses Association (FNA). I am a member, but have not been involved since I stepped down as public relations director of this district several years ago. I attended the meeting because I wanted to re-involve myself, and because I knew Barbara Lumpkin, RN, associate executive director of the FNA, was the key speaker that evening.

Lee County, which District 7 represents, has more than 4,000 registered nurses. Only about 800 are members, and only 14 were present that evening, as well as a class of student nurses.

“Sadly, only 20 percent of nurses belong to any organizations,” Lumpkin stated that night. “That’s why we are powerless. It’s our own fault.”

VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATION
“The Florida Nurses Association is a voluntary organization of members that pays dues to fund the work of the organization. We do not exist without nurses committed to improving the health care environment for nurses and for patients,” said Willa Fuller, RN, FNA’s director of member services and public relations.

Nursing organizations help to forward nursing as a profession, and being part of a professional organization helps nurses make a difference. Organizations such as the American Nurses Association (ANA), and its constituent organization in Florida, the FNA, present a bigger picture of nursing and health care, while exploring trends and issues facing the profession. Nurses collaborate on issues and projects, and often gain insight into the challenges of providing quality health care in this age of managed care.

Membership in a nursing association provides a return on investment in the area of professional and career growth. Dues support the professional and educational advancement of nurses in Florida, as well as nationwide. How many nurses know about practice statements, codes of ethics, peer assistance programs, collective bargaining and political action?

INTERESTS OF NURSING
As a professional organization, ANA acts in various ways to address the interests of the nursing profession. While ANA focuses on describing the nature and scope of nursing practice and setting standards of practice, education and service, it also speaks forcefully and effectively on behalf of its members. It works hard to establish the rights of all nurses to practice their profession.

ANA and its constituent member associations also undertake the task of influencing national health policy, regulations and legislation so more people have access to quality nursing care. But to do this, professional organizations must have members who are active locally, at the state level and nationally if positive change is to be achieved.

Politicians and policy makers look at numbers when making major decisions regarding whose cause they take up, according to Fuller. Getting to policymakers, and having issues presented, takes advocacy and money. But for organizations to do this, they need all the members they can get. There is power in numbers.

Professional nursing organizations compile and disseminate substantive information regarding current nursing and health care issues: the nursing shortage, workplace advocacy and safety, continuing education, legislative action, and patients’ rights. ANA’s Web site (www.nursingworld.org) provides instant access to specific information and activities and serves as a clearinghouse for nursing and health care news.

ANA also plays a role in much of the national media coverage regarding nursing and quality health care. It has a media speaker program that trains individual nurses across the country to be media speakers in their own communities.

FNA THINK TANK
FNA is in the process of putting together a “think tank,” a representation of educators and stakeholders in health care. Lumpkin said we need to “redefine what nurses do. If we don’t come up with answers, then some people are going to come up with answers that we don’t like.”

There is a lot of grumbling in the ranks of nursing. One of the student nurses at the FNA district meeting stated that one of the comments she constantly hears during clinicals is, “Are you sure you want to do this?” How are we going to strengthen our profession and its future if we project nursing in this manner? Promoting membership in our nursing organizations is a key part of promoting nursing as a profession. Nurses all over the nation are concerned about current health care issues, but how many are a part of the solution? Where is the pride in professional nursing and its activities?

GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
FNA also represents the nursing profession via the Legislative Action Team. This is a network of grassroots nurse lobbyists living and practicing in each legislative district in Florida. They meet with elected officials, encouraging support of FNA’s legislative agenda.

FNA’s Government Relations Program is the voice of professional nursing in Florida. Lumpkin and the lobbying firm of Robert Levy and Associates meet with legislators throughout the year to work on political campaigns. They also meet with other health care provider groups and associations to keep abreast of all proposed legislation related to health care and issues that have an impact on nursing practice.

There are several purposes to the FNA Government Relations Program:

To protect and enhance the legal scope of practice for all registered professional nurses in Florida.

To promote and ensure the economic and practice rights of registered professional nurses in Florida.

To ensure a high quality of care with positive patient care outcomes by promoting appropriate RN staffing in all health care settings.

Some of the top priorities for the 2001 FNA legislative session are to:

Support proposals addressing the current nursing shortage.

Maintain funding in the governors budget for nurse staffing/patient outcomes.

Expand the Nurse Loan Forgiveness Program.

Monitor professional health regulation bills.

Monitor and support appropriate legislative proposals of the Florida Commission on Quality Health Care.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
FNA also has a collective bargaining program, the Professional Practice Advocacy Program (PPAP), which is a process of negotiating and enforcing a lawfully binding contract between an employer and its employees. It provides a means to obtain a legal process to resolve disputes between employees and employers. By negotiating workplace issues and advocating for high standards of patient care, nurses are taking care of themselves and their patients. PPAP also serves as a resource for students.

Collective bargaining finds constructive ways to resolve issues between the health care facility and employees, and to improve the practice environment for nurses. The overall administration of the PPAC is conducted by the Labor and Employment Relations Commission (LERC), through the development of policies and positions. LERC is made up of elected presidents of each local collective bargaining unit, organized under FNA, and meets on a regular basis. They discuss conditions under which nurses in Florida practice, and how the association can have a position of influence on the practice environment. The PPAC is a resource for all nurses in addressing issues of concern in the workplace, and its effect on nursing practice.

GETTING INVOLVED
Registered nurses in Florida and nationwide can play an active role in their profession, using their state association as a vehicle. Nurses, as do those in other professions, have various other responsibilities. Even if a nurse is unable to give time, membership dues are an important part of supporting the nursing profession. Neither the government nor any other source funds the organization.

“While we have been able to extend our influence to extraordinary levels in years past, we are only scratching the surface of the potential power that is available to us,” Fuller said. “One suggestion from a nonmember colleague was to do a mass media campaign about nurse staffing to alert the public, so they can help us fight this issue. She says it is a great idea but the problem is the cost.

“We do not generate enough funds for that kind of campaign. We do not have the resources. But we COULD do a campaign like that if only half of the licensed nurses in Florida joined the association and paid the dues.”

Besides the normal services and benefits professional organizations provide, like networking, magazines, insurance, discounts and CEs, associations provide nurses with a forum to be a major influence on health care policies, and for taking a more active role in their own profession.

Membership dues for the Florida Nurses Association are $205 per year. One payment option is to have the fees withdrawn from your checking account monthly, which means you will not have to come up with the total at one time.

Resources
CMA/ANA member benefits guide. (2001). Retrieved Sept. 3, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nursingworld.org/member2.htm

Member services. (2001). Florida Nurses’ Association website. Retrieved Aug. 30, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://www.floridanurse.org/memberSrvcs.asp

Recruiting new graduates into professional nursing organizations. (2001). Retrieved Sept. 3, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nsna.org/resources/recruiting.html

Stocker, S. (1999, May/June). Membership is key to nursing’s strong future. The American Nurse. Retrieved Sept. 8, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ana.org/tan/99mayjun/asiseeit.htm

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