1. Alexander, Mary MA, RN, CRNI(R), CAE, FAAN

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The following speech was delivered at the INS Annual Convention and Industrial Exhibition in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 20, 2013.

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Good morning. Welcome to Charlotte and our 40th anniversary celebration. It's a pleasure to welcome you to INS's signature event-our Annual Convention and Industrial Exhibition. As the voice for infusion professionals everywhere, this meeting gives us an opportunity to showcase the talents and dedication of infusion professionals from around the globe. Your commitment to our specialty is what motivates us and allows us to do the things we do.


This year's meeting holds special significance. We are celebrating 40 years as the leading voice for the infusion specialty. The INS Retrospective displayed outside this room is a wonderful example of how much our organization and our specialty have grown. It's not often that a dream becomes a reality. In far too many cases there are obstacles along the way that turn hopes and dreams into faded memories of what could have been. Luckily for all of us, the dream of our founders to organize a professional association of registered nurses involved in the administration of intravenous therapy did not end on the 25th day of January back in 1973. Their commitment to their craft, to their patients, and to one another wouldn't allow it. And here we are, 40 years later, continuing their dream and benefiting from their single purpose of mind-to make a difference in the lives of patients receiving infusion therapies.


As I look back over our illustrious history, I am struck by how much we have accomplished as an organization and how we have been able to remain relevant amid so many changes that have occurred in the last 40 years. We have adapted to these changes while continuing the work of our founders. There have certainly been bumps along the way, but we have navigated around those bumps and remained firmly entrenched as the voice for infusion therapy. We occupy a lofty position within the infusion nursing and medical community and our opinion is often sought. In a throwback to the 1970s when our organization was just getting under way, we are like the E.F. Hutton brokerage firm-when INS talks, people listen!


While we greatly enjoy reminiscing about our past, it's important not to lose focus on our present and most importantly, our future. In order to continue our dream we must position ourselves for future growth and influence. The changes and challenges that we currently face and will continue to face cannot be allowed to alter our goals. We must remain relevant. Our relevance extends beyond the nursing and medical communities. We must also remain relevant as an association and a business entity. How we run our organization has a direct correlation to the positive outcomes we enjoy from a nursing aspect.


Associations and societies have been in existence for a very long time. In fact, the earliest association on record in the United States was the Chamber of Commerce of the state of New York, which was formed in 1768. It remains in existence today. By the early 1900s, more than 100 associations had been organized. Today there are an estimated 1.9 million associations in the United States. Every one of these organizations has something in common-they exist for the betterment of their particular industry and their members. From accountants to personal trainers to barbershop quartets to cake decorators to doctors and nurses, there is an association for almost everything. The success of each of these associations rests considerably on their ability to remain relevant, to meet the needs of their constituents, to adapt to change, and to enjoy a healthy financial bottom line. As you can imagine, this is much easier said than done.


The environment around us has changed considerably, but associations as a whole have not kept pace with this change. Many still operate in much the same manner as they did 10 or 20 years ago. This is not a recipe for success. And if I may borrow from the Oldsmobile car commercials of the 1980s, today's association is not your fathers' association-it's a new generation of associations. INS is keenly aware of this fact, and we have spent considerable time addressing many important questions. How do we compete for the time of an increasingly busy membership? How do we leverage today's technology to provide meaningful results? How do we transform a business model that no longer seems to fit today's business world? How do we ensure that financial aspects do not become a burden to our members or our organization? And most importantly, how do we remain relevant?


As an avid reader of business-related books, I was thrilled to see a book that was written specifically for the association community and the challenges that we face. Race for Relevance, by Harrison Coerver and Mary Byers, speaks to the unique challenges that associations face and how that very uniqueness often leads to bad decision making and disastrous results. The book emphasizes the need for change. The very first line in the introduction of the book states the authors' case quite succinctly: "This is a book about change. Radical change."


The authors make the case that incremental change is often insufficient in bringing about powerful progress. According to the authors, there are marketplace realities that have changed the playing field for membership organizations. Among them are time, value expectations, generational differences, competition, and technology. Each of these realities has had a profound effect on associations and has created the race for relevance.



It would come as no surprise to anyone sitting here this morning that people are busier now than they have ever been before. We all have endless to-do lists, and our personal and professional lives have become blurred. It has been documented that Americans are working more now than in any time in history. We still have the same number of hours in a day; we just have more things to accomplish in that day. So when we combine all these factors, is it any wonder that people just don't have time for their professional association? People have indicated a desire to get involved, but the time constraints often prevent it from happening. So the question becomes, how do we overcome the time barriers that prevent participation? INS has addressed this problem by creating opportunities for our members to participate in meaningful projects that are interesting, help them perform in their work, have a short time frame, and have a positive impact on their lives and the lives of their colleagues and patients. The hundreds of applications we routinely see when we send out a call for volunteers to work on a project are testament to Coerver and Byers' beliefs. It is also testament to our members' belief that working on an INS project is time well spent.



Gone are the days in which membership in an association was an obligation or something that you did. Our lives have become much too busy and our expenses too numerous for us to continue to follow this model. Members in any organization have increased expectations for their membership dollars. And frankly, this is the way it should be. As the authors point out in their book, "As consumers in the 1980s Wendy's commercial asked, 'Where's the beef?' association members began asking, 'Where's the value?' 'Where's the substance?'" These are valid questions. What is important to understand, however, is it is incumbent upon the association to truly understand what their members value. At INS, we believe we know. And the reason we know is because we asked you. It was your request for access to online educational programming that led to the development of the INS Knowledge Center. It was your request to be able to ask clinical questions and conduct searches on infusion-related topics that led to the Clinical Nursing Forum section of the Knowledge Center. It was your request that INS address the challenges that you face every day in your clinical work that led to the IV Assessment Task Force and subsequent position paper and webinar. It also led to the development of Infusion Spotlight, as well as the laminated card deck series. As your expectations increase, so does our desire to meet them. You should be confident in knowing that the expectations we have of ourselves is surpassed only by our desire to meet them.



The discussion surrounding generational differences in the workplace is a common one that has grown louder and louder. Our nursing profession can certainly attest to that. We have Silents, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials all working side by side, each with his or her own unique style and philosophy. Coerver and Byers are quick to point out the danger of labeling or stereotyping these groups, but the fact remains that each has its own values when it comes to volunteer service and expectations for the membership dues dollars that they spend. For example, the 2006 report "Generations and the Future of Association Participation," by the William E. Smith Institute for Association Research, notes, "If there is a meaningful difference between Generation X workers and Baby Boomers, it is not in the propensity to join associations, but rather in their expectations about what membership means and the return it provides." According to Coerver and Byers, what this research suggests is that the disconnect between generations can be bridged if associations recognize the growing differences in members' needs, preferences, and values and do something about it.


INS continually looks for ways to engage our entire membership. We understand that one size certainly does not fit all. For many of you sitting here this morning, face-to-face meetings are critical to your professional development. The knowledge sharing that occurs in the meeting rooms, hallways, and social events is critical for you. Some of your colleagues, though, prefer online learning. Once again, the educational programming delivered through the INS Knowledge Center is a vehicle for these clinicians. Others find value serving on a committee or task force. INS recognizes the shifts that have taken place over the years, and we no longer conduct our business on models of the past. A new generation of associations calls for a new-generation approach.



Associations face competition from many different sources: other associations, for-profit organizations, the Internet, books, and magazines, to name a few. It's important to note that the competition is for the members' time and expertise. INS makes sure that the value you receive from your membership is equal to or greater than the price you pay.


Several years ago we embarked on a campaign called "We Wrote the Book." The campaign highlighted several of the books that INS had published, including our textbook, Standards of Practice, and Policies and Procedures for Infusion Nursing. The campaign encouraged you to look no further than INS for the authoritative resources that were essential to infusion therapy delivery because INS "wrote the book." Today, we can still make that claim, but we would need to alter it slightly. It would be more appropriate to say, "INS wrote the book, webinar, position paper, white paper, education program, online program, and a whole lot more." Our model has shifted along with the priorities of our membership. What hasn't shifted is our commitment to providing the information you need and your commitment to our profession.



There is one word that can aptly describe the role that technology has played in associations-wow! The difference in this meeting has been so dramatic over the past 10 years that it is hard to recognize what it used to be. Meeting apps, the use of PowerPoint and laptops, polling through cell phones, lead retrieval methods in our exhibit hall, smartphones, QR codes, and iPads all play a role in the development and delivery of this meeting. However, we must be nimble enough to stay ahead of the curve because these tools may be obsolete 10 years from now. We have successfully transitioned from the meetings of the past to where we are today. It is equally important to make sure we can transition to the meeting of tomorrow.


I have spoken this morning about the role you, our members, have in assisting in the race for relevance. Another key partner in this race is the role of the INS staff. Much like the demographics here at this meeting, the INS staff is made up of Silents, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. Each brings a unique perspective and passion to his or her work. As CEO, it delights me to see the mix of ideas blend together to create an end result that is a direct benefit to our membership. That perspective and passion comes from the empowerment given to our staff. Our mantra to them is "don't bring us problems, bring us solutions," and the success that INS has enjoyed over these many years is testament to that.


With the support and hard work of our staff and our membership, INS remains poised to thrive well into the future. Our ability to continue our relevance in the infusion nursing community and our ability to meet the needs of an ever-changing, ever-growing membership will keep us firmly ensconced as the recognized global authority in infusion therapy. I thank you for all that you do on our behalf and wish you continued success.