Assuming the ancient Mayans were wrong about that whole “end of the world” scenario, 2013 has dawned by the time you’re reading this. And a new year brings a new, unified voice for nurse practitioners: the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). But the leadership of the “new” organization—the result of a merger between the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP)—hopes you won’t notice much of a change from its previous incarnations.
“NPs will see a new name, but they’ll see the same people from the two organizations still working very hard to assist them and focus on their practice,” says Angela K. Golden, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, President of both the old and the new AANP. “Both organizations were member-focused, and that clearly will remain our guiding principle.”
“We are able, essentially, to join forces, combine the talent of both staff and members, and move forward with a renewed purpose toward advancing the cause of NPs,” says David Hebert, who served as CEO of ACNP and will retain that role within the new AANP. “Certainly, the profession will continue to vigorously advocate to practice fully within its scope, and we will continue to be very assertive on that front.”
HERE’S THE DEAL ...
On November 19, 2012, AANP and ACNP announced their plans to consolidate effective January 1, 2013. The new organization has approximately 40,000 members, making it the largest professional membership organization in the United States representing NPs of all specialties.
Golden will serve out the first year of her two-year term as President; then, at AANP’s annual meeting in Las Vegas this June, she will be joined by Co-President Kenneth P. Miller, PhD, RN, CFNP, FAAN, who was the President-Elect of ACNP. The executive committee of the new organization also includes Past President Penny Kaye Jensen, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, FAANP; Treasurer Joyce M. Knestrick, PhD, FNP, FAANP; Recording Secretary Cindy Cooke, MSN, FNP, NP-C, FAANP; and Members at Large Cathy R. Arvidson, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, and Cynthia J. Edwards-Tuttle, MSN, FNP, BC.
The boards of both AANP and ACNP obviously had to approve the merger, and a bylaw change was sent to the membership for a vote. Golden says the response from NPs, both members and nonmembers, has been “overwhelmingly positive.” In fact, the move has been applauded by those outside the profession as well.
“I recently had the opportunity to speak at a PA meeting,” Golden reports, “and they were all saying, ‘This is so exciting for NPs.’ So I think lots of organizations recognize the value of having one voice.”
During her term as President of AANP, Jensen was often asked by colleagues, NP students, and other stakeholders, “Why are there two organizations for NPs?”
“There was never a good explanation,” Jensen says. “The merger will provide unity in terms of our messages, goals, strategies, and resources. NPs must speak with a unified voice and encourage our health care system to embrace us fully as highly skilled, educated, and qualified.”
That’s the entire point of the merger: strengthening the voice of NPs on the national stage as well as within each state. The consensus is that this is an exciting moment for NPs, particularly in light of the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report and the impending implementation of aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that will result in an additional 32 million Americans having health insurance and needing access to health care providers. NPs have been working aggressively to improve and align state practice acts and update archaic language in laws that prevent them from practicing to the full extent of their education and training.
“It is more important than ever that NPs are involved in key discussions at both the state and national level,” Jensen says. “Two of the most important places to do this are the insurance exchange and medical home arenas. A presence in each of these venues will be critical to NP involvement in the future of health care in the nation.”
“This is just one more way that we can concentrate on getting ‘all hands on deck,’ getting everybody ready for NPs to come forward and be one of the primary providers of primary care,” says Golden. “There are other NP organizations that we will still, very clearly, collaborate with, but to have one organization representing all NPs shows solidarity.”
WHAT TO EXPECT
A strategic planning session will be held early this year, at which the board of AANP will outline its vision for 2013 and beyond. “At that point,” Hebert says, “we will have a discussion about utilization of resources, the creation of new services to be provided to the membership, and to really set forth what we plan to do for the future.”
In some ways, the mission of the new organization will simply be a continuation of the work that both AANP and ACNP were already doing. Of course, AANP provided full services to members and had established a research division, as well as education and continuing education components, while ACNP focused primarily on health policy and their own annual meeting. But Golden says the merger went smoothly in part because the two organizations had a similar focus to their policy initiatives.
“I think what [the merger] is really going to do is provide us with a stronger base to do the things that we were planning to do anyway,” she says. “Both organizations were looking at the home health and hospice issue and getting old laws updated across the United States, and helping our group members and our state affiliates to work on the language in their states so that there is full access to NPs for our patients.”
As much as things will remain the same, Hebert anticipates additions and improvements to what the new AANP can offer its members. “My sense is that once the board has its strategic planning session, members will see some new services,” he notes. There will also be a rebranding campaign to introduce the new “look” to the organization, which includes a new logo.
And there will be an opportunity for members to have their own voices heard by the organization. “I think we’re going to want to take some time to find out from the members what new services they want,” Hebert adds. (He sounds unfazed by how refreshing this concept is.) “The board and the staff will have ideas about what else we can do to improve member services, but we certainly want to reach out to the membership. You do your best to try and think of what a member wants, but nothing beats just talking to them.”
WORKING TOGETHER BENEFITS ALL
All parties agree that the merger was the right move at the right time. Golden knows from speaking with prior leaders of AANP that the conversation had often been started but never proceeded. Hebert acknowledges that both organizations had heard the question of “Why isn’t there one group for NPs?” before; after all, the nurse anesthetists and the nurse-midwives each have an umbrella group to represent them.
“I think sometimes things occur when they’re supposed to,” Golden says. “That sounds a bit metaphysical, but I think in this case, Jill Olmstead and Penny Kaye Jensen, who were the presidents of ACNP and AANP when this conversation began, both acknowledged how valuable this could be and got both boards involved in the discussion.”
In January 2012, Jensen, Olmstead, Hebert, ACNP Immediate Past President Janet Selway, DNSc, CRNP, and AANP Interim CEO Janice DeMartino met “to discuss the possibility of the two organizations working together to promote the NP profession and create a legislative agenda that would ensure NPs a seat at the table with the expected changes brought by the implementation of PPACA,” Jensen says.
That meeting was followed by additional discussions that eventually led to the merger proposal in July 2012. “Both boards were very thoughtful throughout the process and should be given credit for working diligently to make the merger a reality,” Jensen says.
She gives much of the credit to DeMartino, who she says “worked tirelessly to ensure AANP made the needed changes to ensure a bright future and was able to open doors that had never been opened in the past. She is a visionary, and I cannot thank her enough for serving as interim CEO for the past 13 months and working closely with the board to make the vision of a successful merger a reality.”
The consolidation process has already demonstrated that the leaders and staff of the two organizations can work together effectively and efficiently, to the benefit of all NPs. “We’ve been working very hard over the past six months, pending the formal ratification by both organizations, to make sure that if in fact [the merger] occurred, we would be ready to ensure a seamless transition,” Hebert says.
Golden describes the negotiation process as “pretty easy and painless,” as well as “collegial.” “We all just said, ‘This is our end goal; how do we get there?’ Both organizations had ideas, but they were pretty close together. We were both focused on members. It’s just like NPs focusing on patient care—when you keep your focus where it’s supposed to be, the details kind of come along.”
Golden laughs when it is suggested that NPs should forget about marching on Congress and instead take over the legislative body, acknowledging, “Maybe we could give them an example of how to work together.” More important to her is for all NPs to get involved to advance the cause and enhance their ability to provide quality patient care, because, as she says, “We can’t do it alone.”
“There is strength in numbers,” Jensen says. “The NP profession has gained visibility and momentum over the past two years. We are well positioned for the future, and I am ecstatic that we will now be able to relay our message to key stakeholders with one unified voice.”