Georgia Nurses Association
When its three-day annual convention wrapped up last November in Columbus, the Georgia Nurses Association announced that major changes were in the works for how it serves its 3,000 members statewide.
The goal: better meeting the needs of Georgia’s nurses in the 21st century. "We realized we needed to be much more flexible and less structured along geographic lines," says Linda Easterly, GNA’s current president and director of the occupational health and wellness program at Warner Robins’ Houston Healthcare center.
Long structured around 23 geographically-based districts throughout the state, the association will implement changes this year to allow groups of nurses anywhere in Georgia to start their own chapters based on topics of professional interest, from specific medical conditions such as childhood obesity to the range of issues faced by the elderly.
"People aren’t bound by geography anymore because of the technology that is out there today," says Easterly, adding that each chapter will have its own online forum, in order to attract as wide an audience as possible for each topic. "We wanted to have the chance for our members to network based on what their interest is, rather than just where they’re physically located."
Founded in 1907, GNA is the state’s largest professional association devoted to providing continuing education and legislative advocacy for the issues faced by registered nurses.
Its membership ranks have been slowly but steadily thinning, however. Though the number of registered nurses in Georgia topped 95,000 in January of this year, the organization’s membership has declined by "a couple of percentage points" each year for the past several years, says Cindy Balukstra, GNA’s president-elect and a clinical nurse specialist with Savannah’s St. Joseph’s/Candler hospitals.
That prompted the group’s leadership to think long and hard about what its most urgent priorities are, say Easterly and Balukstra. For inspiration, they turned to Jim Collins’ business best-seller Good To Great, which emphasizes the need for companies and social-sector organizations to focus their energies on what they can do better than anyone else.
"We had to take a hard look at ourselves and see what can we do to respond to the younger nurse who’s graduating now and [those] a few years in the future," Balukstra says. "We realized that we have a different clientele than in years past, and we had to find out what can we do to be more responsive to that clientele."
With its new structure – which it calls "communities of practice" – GNA hopes to recapture the interest of nurses statewide and build on its nearly century-long history of being the voice for nursing in Georgia, Balukstra adds. "I think that is going to be the wave of our future in terms of being more attractive to our newer nurses."