Whys and Hows of Specialty Nursing Associations

Whys and Hows of Specialty Nursing Associations

Published in Canadian Nurse — February 2012

I had the pleasure of meeting with Ann Alsaffar, president of the Canadian Family Practice Nurses Association (CFPNA), a speciality nursing group that’s grown from 17 nurses in Ottawa to over 600 nurses from across Canada in just 10 years.

Why such big growth? Ann explained that nurses joined her association because it does what all good associations do: help nurses connect with a community that shares a passion for a particular area of nursing. Associations help nurses expand their knowledge and skills, share best practices and remain current, connected and relevant.

But how does someone start and maintain a group? Ann spoke about the personal commitment and persistent passion that’s necessary to start a group and keep it moving and growing. It requires many volunteer hours, usually working in a small executive group through e-mail and phone with little or no budget, to plan meetings, push agendas, and build up the association. Ann said to boost CFPNA’s membership, they found pockets of nurses in different parts of the country in family practice who were working on common issues and brought them together. The membership push continues today, as Ann and others still encourage nurses to join and stakeholders to get involved.

Ann compared the concept of joining a specialty group to buying an exercise bicycle. If you buy the bike and never use it, it won’t be of any benefit. So when you join your specialty group, maximize your benefit by being fully engaged, attending meetings and joining subcommittees, because the impact will be immediate and so very worthwhile.