Member Perspective – Why I Belong to ACNL


By Carole A.Shea
Professor, CSU, Domiguez Hills

I was settled into my position at the School of Nursing at Cal State Dominguez Hills. But as a relative newcomer to the state, I knew I would need to move beyond the confines of my academic environment to learn more about nursing practice in California. To become an effective educator I needed to know: What are the burning professional issues? Who are the “movers and shakers” advancing the profession? Where could I find partners and more resources to support my programs? How could I expand my vision of nursing education to meet the needs of California’s nursing workforce?

I found the answers to these questions and many more by joining ACNL! I started by attending ACNL Regional Meetings in southern California. I met nursing executives, directors, clinicians, educators, students – a whole range of interesting and passionate professionals who were welcoming and eager to get me involved in helping achieve ACNL’s agenda.

I chose to work on the campaign for a Better Educated Nursing Workforce. For me, it was a perfect fit - something I could make a substantive contribution to, while learning more about the practice of nursing at all levels. One activity was particularly valuable. My nursing faculty was in the process of developing a pre-licensure master’s entry-level nursing program based on the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) framework. I appreciated the opportunity to contribute to the development of ACNL’s White Paper on the Role of the CNL and its impact on nursing practice.

Throughout my years of nursing I had always been a “joiner,” looking to involvement with professional organizations to enlarge my circle of professional colleagues and friends, as well as to keep tuned-in to the latest professional developments. However, I found it was even more satisfying to have a leadership position where I could shape thinking and events, while representing the constituencies of the organization. So I took a short leap from being an ACNL committee member to running for office as the Academic Liaison on the ACNL Board. Much to my surprise, I was elected to a two year term.

My time on the Board has given me further opportunities to broaden my knowledge about the pressing issues of our day – quality and safety, healthcare reform, nursing shortage, healthy work environment, disruptive behavior – and the list goes on. I have appreciated most the opportunity to meet “up close and personal”  the other Board Members who are exceptional leaders in so many ways. They are dedicated to upholding ACNL’s values, tackling the extraordinary financial constraints in this difficult economic climate, offering resources and support to members and shaping health policy at the highest levels. They have taught me new ways to do business, for example starting meetings with a reflection to set the tone for the day. They have provided me with role models and resources to share with my faculty and students. And they are a FUN group! It’s not all work and no play with these leaders at the helm. Just come to the chapter/regional meetings and especially the Annual Conference to see what I mean.

My term as a Board Member is completed. But I can assure you I will continue to reap the benefits of membership by keeping actively involved at the regional level and volunteering to serve on committees and task forces. ACNL is the most rewarding organization I belong to, because I found that the more you give, the more you get in return.