I was pleased to receive the column from the International Home Care Nurse Association (IHCNO) for this issue. This grassroots organization was started by home care nurses just like you, who saw a need to bring together home care nurses from across the country and around the world. Unlike other specialty areas in nursing, home care nurses do not have a strong national organization, and sadly we do not even have a certification exam. The founding members recognized the need to connect with other home care nurses and organized three IHCNO conferences in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Unfortunately, many interested nurses from outside the country were not able to get visas to enter the United States (not to mention difficulties affording the expense), so a virtual conference is planned for this year. Interested participants can log in from their homes or place of work, enjoy connecting with others, and learn about the exciting efforts of this group thus far. There is no charge for this informative webinar. See the IHCNO page for registration information. LaSalle University in Philadelphia has kindly agreed to cosponsor this event along with Home Healthcare Now.
Why is it that we have such low interest in a professional organization compared to other specialty areas? Critical care, medsurg, nephrology, emergency, psychiatric, and pediatric nursing (I could name many more) all have robust organizations and certification exams. I ask this sincerely, and hope to hear from readers. One friend theorized that home care, due to its flexible nature, is attractive to nurses with young families. These nurses are at a very busy time in their lives and professional issues are placed on the "back burner". Another colleague suggested older nurses who can no longer handle the pace of acute care are attracted to what they think will be a slower and easier pace in home care. She thinks these more seasoned nurses are no longer interested in professional organizations. I don't have reliable statistics about home care nurse demographics to support or refute either of these theories. What I do know is, with high tech procedures now the norm in home care, we need a strong professional organization to help define standards, promulgate practice guidelines and provide home care nurses with opportunities to network and lead this important specialty area.
I do suspect we don't emphasize professional organizations well enough in schools of nursing. As a nursing faculty, I have found students to be understandably anxious about learning procedures over professional issues. With patient safety at the forefront, learning to safely insert a nasogastric tube, administer enteral feedings, insert intravenous and Foley catheters and care for patients on ventilators are all critical to the wellbeing of patients. I can appreciate why they don't have the ability to see the bigger picture yet. While just about all schools of nursing participate in the Students Nurse Association, I understand from colleagues and through personal experience that attendance and interest is low. If your school of nursing has a strong Student Nurse Association, tell me how and why you think that came about.
I would like to reach out to other home care professionals. I do know the American Physical Therapy (PT) Association, and the American Occupational Therapy Association Inc. have home care divisions. I hope our colleagues from these important specialties will give us some guidance on improving professional participation. Were you urged to join your organizations as students? What encourages you to be active in your association?
Finally, hats off to the members that have kept IHCNO alive and growing. I hope many more of you will join in. Good news! - the organization does not charge a membership fee. To join the email list, send an email to email@example.com. I hope to "see" many of you at the free home care nursing webinar in October.