Anyone who has attended the biennial meetings of the American Nurses Association (ANA) is familiar with the sight of 600 or more delegates negotiating for hours over the phrasing of resolutions that had already undergone substantial parsing. But such scenes are now things of the past.
At the 2012 House of Delegates (HOD) meeting on June 15 and 16 in National Harbor, Maryland, the HOD passed several “transformational resolutions” designed to streamline decision making and enable the organization to act more efficiently. One of those changes was the abolition of the HOD itself at the end of this session.
This year, the HOD had only 484 eligible delegates instead of the 675 allowed by bylaws. Among the missing was the delegation from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), which is under a one-year suspension, levied in January, for engaging in “dual unionism,” a violation of the bylaws. (Read AJN's blog post on the suspension at http://bit.ly/Ksb2mc.)
The HOD passed four of the five transformational resolutions that had been proposed. Those that were passed will serve to
- give the board of directors the power to establish ad hoc committees and working groups it deems necessary to further association business, as well as to dissolve them. The Congress on Nursing Practice and Economics will be dissolved.
- clarify the ANA's purpose and functions, especially in relation to it not performing collective bargaining services but, rather, advocating workplace standards “that foster safe patient care and support the profession.”
- dissolve the HOD and Constituent Assembly and replace them with a smaller group, the Membership Assembly, which will become the organization's “official governing and voting body.” It will comprise representatives from the constituent member and state nurses associations and individual member division and will meet annually.
- reduce the board of directors from 15 members to nine.
The most far-reaching resolution, however—an organizational restructuring from a federated model (in which the states are the members) to a model in which individuals are the members—was rejected by a vote of 270 to 192.
Before the vote, ANA president Karen Daley had urged delegates to “have the courage to change,” explaining that the current structure was too costly and slow and maintaining that “the status quo is not a viable option for the association.” On behalf of several former ANA presidents, former president Barbara Blakeney presented a statement of support for moving away from the federation model, and Barbara Nichols, who wasn't in favor of the federation structure when it was implemented in 1982 (during her tenure as president), also urged the HOD to pass the resolution. The HOD referred it back to the board, however, asking for more information and research on the effects the change in structure would have on state associations, finances, and services. Consequently, the structure cannot now be changed for at least another year, when the board and the new Membership Assembly will meet.
Daley, however, wasn't disappointed in the outcome, declaring the house “a resounding success.” She explained to AJN that, “given the extensive discussions we've had with the constituent and state nurses' association leaders over the last several months, we knew they did not feel comfortable with the move to the individual membership model until we provided more detailed information. This work is well under way.”
Judy Huntington, executive director of the Washington State Nurses Association, agreed, saying, “I think we made a good decision to delay action.” Huntington, who had been an advocate of the federation model when it was implemented in 1982, spoke out against the change in structure. As she explained to AJN, “We are certainly not opposed to changing from a modified federation model, but the question is whether the direct membership model that is currently proposed is the right change for these times. There may be other models we haven't considered and should explore. We were very concerned about the potential for unintended consequences and further erosion of both the ANA and the [constituent and state nurses' association] membership and financial bases. We need to be very clear about the goals we are trying to accomplish before changing the membership model.”
Karen Ballard, first vice president of the ANA and a past president of the NYSNA, favored the change but wasn't disappointed, saying, “There was rich discussion and interest among all the states at the bylaws forums. We made progress, but it was too much to change all at once.”
The HOD also passed resolutions reaffirming its commitment to safe, nurse-led staffing systems; workplace safety precautions to protect nurses who handle hazardous drugs; the development of programs to reduce workplace violence; and exploration of health hazards associated with securing energy, especially the newer technology employed in hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
Daley was reelected for a second term (for more information on election results, go to bit.ly/LuEygD), and 18 nurses were honored at the meeting: six will join 77 other nurses in the ANA Hall of Fame (see who was inducted here: http://bit.ly/MLGMWL), and 12 received awards for outstanding contributions to nursing.—Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, editor-in-chief