NEW YORK NURSE: November 2010
Marilynn Malerba, the first female chief of the Mohegan Tribe in modern history, welcomed attendees to the resort during the first session of the Voting Body. Malerba drew applause when she pointed out that she, too, is a registered nurse, adding, “Nursing is a very personal way of interacting with humanity by helping people.” Her career has included working in coronary care and critical care, nurse management, hospital administration, and serving on a hospital’s board of directors. As director of the tribe’s Health and Human Services Department, Malerba introduced many programs to help tribe members. She said her healthcare and tribal careers have made her chosen Mohegan name, “Mutáwi Mutáhash,” which means “many hearts,” so appropriate.
“At this point in history, there are so many opportunities available to us,” said Karen Daley, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), during the first Voting Body session on Thursday. “We’ve already seen how the power and partnership of the constituent member associations and the ANA resounds in the work we’ve done on the issue of injury prevention. The next few years will be a crucial turning point,” Daley said, “as healthcare reform changes the delivery of care throughout the nation. Nursing can take a leading role.” Daley discussed the ANA’s strategic priorities of promoting educational advancement, research to ensure practice is based on evidence, engaging in partnerships with other associations that share its legislative agenda, and influencing public policy by identifying and articulating the economic value of nursing outcomes.
Also on Thursday, NYSNA President Karen A. Ballard presented the Presidential Award to Michael Loughran, president of the Healthcare Division of AON Affinity Insurance Services for his work in addressing the complex insurance needs of RNs through Nurses Service Organization (NSO). Loughran thanked nurses for their feedback through the past two decades of NYSNA’s partnership with NSO. This relationship has helped NSO find innovative ways to meet the evolving and increasing protection needs of nurses in all types of practice areas and has allowed thousands of RNs to maintain their financial security. NSO has also been instrumental in educating RNs to assess and handle risk in their workplaces, which in turn supports quality patient care. “The best defense against litigation,” Loughran said in a workshop on this topic during the conference, “is an unwavering commitment to the health and safety of the vulnerable human beings under one’s care.”
In a high-energy plenary session on Wednesday, Kathy B. Dempsey, and her (toy) reptilian partner, Lenny, explained the important life lessons about change that humans can learn from lizards. People often don’t want to leave their comfortable habits, but like lizards, Dempsey said, people and organizations must shed or die. We have to shed the “old skin” of “old habits, negative thoughts, unhealthy relationships” in order to “grow physically, mentally and spiritually.”
To illustrate how profound this approach to understanding and encouraging change can be, Dempsey, who is an ER nurse by training, shared her personal experience of being the first healthcare professional in the United States to test positive for HIV as a result of patient exposure, back in 1986. In subsequent tests, Dempsey tested HIV-negative, but she credits the experience with starting her on the path to a new career and a new approach to embracing change.
Who’s trying to undermine your efforts in the workplace? Judith Briles’ humorous keynote presentation Thursday on “Stabotage” told NYSNA members how to handle “the pit bulls that hide behind lipstick and designer clothes” along with “snakes” who flick abrasive tongues, “scorpions” who are waiting to sting, and “slugs” who are “just there and breathing.” Briles discussed the unique characteristics of bullying behavior in a female-dominated healthcare workplace and its costs in terms of deteriorating communication that can affect patient care. Briles encouraged nurses who feel like victims to stand up for themselves, offering suggestions for handling conflicts, how to confront a bully, and how to improve their listening skills in order to work toward a resolution.
“With your assistance, support and confidence in the staff’s abilities to focus on achieving the outcomes laid out in the NYSNA strategic plan, we’ve been able to achieve great things together,” said NYSNA Chief Executive Officer Tina Gerardi in her annual address. “This past year NYSNA made the most headway in its history on the political front with our top legislative priorities,” she said. The association “has been the leader with regard to seasonal flu and H1N1, violence against nurses, pension protection, hospital closures, and single payer/healthcare reform.”
This past year, NYSNA has seen dramatic increases in consultations on practice issues, enrollment in its educational programs, and the number of participants in its Lobby Day, she said. It’s also negotiated groundbreaking contracts and increased membership through organizing. Gerardi thanked members for their commitment to their patients and profession and for their ongoing support of the association’s work. “NYSNA staff is ready for the challenge, and with a strong membership committed to the vision and mission of NYSNA, we can continue to lead the way in 2011!”
“The time for baccalaureate education in nursing to become an expected professional achievement for nurses as they progress in their nursing careers is now, in this present, not in some hoped-for future!” said NYSNA President Karen Ballard in her address to the Voting Body.
Her comments on education came as part of her discussion on the Institute of Medicine’s report on the “Future of Nursing.”
Ballard described a landmark legislative proposal that would take an inclusive approach to advancing nursing practice and education by maintaining all current educational paths available for individuals wishing to pursue a nursing career, with the professional and legal expectation for a baccalaureate degree within 10 years of licensure. The concept for the proposal was developed by the State Board for Nursing under the direction of Executive Secretary Barbara Zittel. It is now a legislative proposal jointly sponsored by the New York Organization of Nurse Executives and NYSNA.
“The future travelers in our profession need us to be leaders for change. We are a generation of professional nurses that has a unique opportunity to forever change nursing education,” Ballard added. “Circumstances and the steadfast commitment of the New York State Nurses Association to baccalaureate education for nurses have placed us and this nurses association at the center of a revolutionary moment.”