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Redefining Value in an Environment of Change
All associations need to keep pace with change and effectively evolve their missions, visions and value propositions. Boards that recognize and embrace the need for change are able to not only better meet the needs of members, but also more effectively preserve the interests of a profession.

In recent years, few industries have endured more dramatic change than healthcare. Several years ago, an association of nearly 3,200 registered nurses specially trained to serve as hospital nursing staff educators — known at that time as the National Nursing Staff Development Organization — faced both stagnant membership growth and less than favorable industry dynamics.

“The sands were shifting, and we knew we had to reframe our unique role in the health care setting, and reshape our association’s identity,” said Joan Warren, the group’s president since 2014. “We had to be willing to take a risk.”

Change Drivers

Founded in 1989, the association was formed to offer education and professional certifications to an emerging niche in the nursing industry — the nursing professional development practitioner. These professionals were responsible for everything from new-nurse orientations and continuing education programs to training staff on ever-advancing diagnostic equipment.

In late 2011, the group acknowledged declining growth that it attributed, in part, to a lack of awareness of and confusion about its name. At the same time, changes in the healthcare arena driven by factors such as the Affordable Care Act brought on new payment and delivery models, forcing many hospitals to make significant spending cuts. Oftentimes the nursing educator positions were impacted.

But, Warren pointed out, when dangerous viruses or outbreaks such as Ebola or the Zika virus occur, “our members are at the forefront in getting the information and training, and then educating the entire nursing staff — from bed-side and charge nurses to management — on appropriate treatment plans and protocols. It’s a highly specialized role, and one that is essential to a hospital’s ability to maintain quality care.”

The board began a strategic planning process, which involved a critical look at everything from its identity to its value proposition. “I credit our board with accepting the need for change, and for taking the steps that set us on a path for future success while also being responsible to those who were instrumental in shaping our profession,” said Warren.

New Identity

At the time, Warren said, there was growing concern within both the board and the membership that the association’s identity had to be addressed. “Our prospective member base, and the industry itself, didn’t really know who we were or what we did.” The board agreed on an identity change — one that was underscored by a brand new approach to how the association could better serve its members.

Following member surveys and thorough evaluation, the board decided to change its name and re-launch itself as the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD). The new, more descriptive name was accompanied by a new logo and visual identity, as well as a redesign of its website and all educational, marketing and membership materials. The related communications plan called for publicity efforts and extensive member communications to showcase the changes and what they meant for the organization.

Before the formal re-launch the board agreed that it was important to go back to former board members and past presidents, explain the changes and garner their support. “This represented real change for our organization and a whole new direction to modernize it,” said Warren. “We felt a responsibility to the entire organization — past, present and future.”

Not only was the reception among the association’s legacy leaders and current members very positive, but in the months following the re-launch membership numbers also began to trend upward.

Value Proposition

In tandem with efforts to rebrand itself in the marketplace and within the industry at large, the board was also working hard to address the value it offered to members and how it could serve them more effectively. “At the time we started to make changes, our value proposition consisted primarily of the professional certifications and informational materials,” said Warren. “Again, we knew we needed to take some risks in order to evolve.”

First, ANPD sought out an experienced nursing and education professional who could serve as a content expert, as well as a liaison between the board and association staff. The association found and hired a full-time director of education whose responsibilities included conducting research, designing a range of products and forging strategic partnerships.

“Today, the breadth of products and services ANPD offers is far greater than ever before, and we are seeing so many new opportunities,” said Warren. ANPD has conducted a range of research studies, developed core curriculums across key specialty areas, and shaped new professional standards and core competencies. Most notably, ANPD is offering its members ten annual educational Webinars free-of-charge as a membership benefit — a significant addition to the ANPD value proposition that has been widely embraced.

As a result of these changes, ANPD has experienced membership growth of nearly 20 percent, as well as marked increases in conference attendance and professional certifications.

Guiding Values for the Future

The organization’s success inspired the current ANPD board to reflect on how far the association had come and take steps to ensure that it is well-positioned for the future. Recognizing the value of its mission and vision statements as guiding elements through its transformation, board members then worked together to establish a set of core values from which all of its activities should stem — Leadership, Practice Excellence and Inquiry.

“Every time we face choices now and in the future, we have three guideposts to direct our thinking — our mission, our vision and our core values,” Warren said.

Challenges for ANPD’s future are not unlike those of many associations. “We’ve got to appeal to younger nurses and find ways to keep our membership diverse,” Warren said. Surveys and research are underway to look at issues of age, gender and cultural ethnicity and help determine how ANPD will continue to grow in the future.

And, as standards evolve for how hospitals perform, the focus is shifting toward quality care, disease and infection prevention, shorter hospital stays and lower readmission rates, Warren said. “Our members play a critical role in affecting quality patient care, and are trained to foster an environment of care that puts quality at the forefront. ANPD will continue to constantly reassess our mission, vision and core values and work to serve our members in the best ways possible and advance our profession.”
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