1. Washington-Brown, Linda Joyce PhD, ARNP

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Since the National League for Nursing (NLN) severed its ties with all state organizations over 2 years ago, constituent (state) leagues of nursing have faced many new challenges. State organizations are in the precarious situation of determining their mission apart from the national organization. The Florida League for Nursing (FLN), as well as other state leagues, has accepted this challenge, determined to remain the pre-eminent state association of nurse educators, and take the leadership role in ensuring high quality in education and research in our state.


The FLN has been a constituency of the NLN for over 10 years. Both FLN and NLN benefited from their national and state alliance that helped to build them both as educational leaders in the nursing profession. Because the NLN was the only accrediting body for professional nursing programs, until 5 years ago, institutional membership was mandatory at the national level for educational institutions requesting national accreditation. However, for those persons requesting individual membership, it was granted at both the state and national levels.


As with any local branch of a national organization, membership applications, cards, master rosters, and other needed documents were prescribed and provided by the national body. Unfortunately, for FLN as well as all other state league organizations, this utopia ended in 1999, when the national body separated itself from the states amidst uncertainty, including the need for national reorganization. Although, there has been little public discussion on the impact of this action, many state organizations were left in a conundrum.


When the NLN severed its ties with all state-affiliated organizations, state constituent leagues received little warning and minimal directions. State leaders were forced to rely on each other for guidance and support. Since that time, NLN's Constituent Organization Advisory Council Executive Committee has been working to improve the relationship between NLN and the constituent leagues as one of its first tasks.


Faced with uncertainty about its survival, the FLN reemerged even stronger than it was 10 years ago. Now it is time for new visions and dreams to emerge. An appeal has been made to nursing educators, clinicians, and consumers of health to come together in a strategic planning session directed towards identifying the "new mission" of FLN. This mission must address the immediate and long-term needs in nursing and healthcare in Florida, within the constraints of the current nursing shortage.


The strategic planning committee was asked to address 3 major issues related to 1) the future of FLN's professional organization, 2) relations with other nursing associations, and 3) our involvement with nursing workforce, education, research, and practice improvement efforts in Florida. The magnitude of the challenges involved with identifying strategies require a state effort that includes the professional, public, and private sector. Initiatives must embrace the educational systems that produce the nurses as well as the employment settings in which they work, and most importantly, the private sector of healthcare consumers.


For these efforts to be effective and sustainable, there must be consistent, visible support from the professional and private sector. FLN has undertaken the initiative to address the challenges set before us.


On April 13, 2002, FLN hosted its annual conference at the University of Florida's Health Science Center in Gainesville, Florida. There were a cadre of nursing educators, clinicians, students, health service providers, and consumers. The topic was poignant- "The Challenges of Bioterrorism." Although it has been several months since September 11, 2001 changed the face of America and how healthcare has had to rethink the terms "mass casualty" and "bioterrorism," the audience was challenged to explore readiness, not only for themselves, but also for their families, work place environments, and communities. The presenters, all experts in the field of bioterrorism, included:


(1) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Hank Everett, Coordinator for Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, Jacksonville Division; (2) Bruce Goldberger, PhD, Professor, Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Florida College of Medicine; (3) Frederick Southwick, MD, Chief, Infectious Diseases, Shands, University of Florida, University of Florida College of Medicine; (4) Thomas Belcuore, MS, Director, Alachua County Emergency Management; and (5) Judith Anderson, PhD, ARNP, Department of Nursing, University of Tampa.


Lois Malasanos, PhD, RN, Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Adult and Elderly Nursing at the University of Florida, chaired this year's conference. Our cosponsors included the University of Florida College of Nursing, University of Florida Alumnae Association, Alpha Theta Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, Santa Fe Community College Nursing Program, North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, Florida Nurses Association-District 10, Shands at the University of Florida, Division of Nursing and Patient Services.


As the newly elected president of FLN, I believe that our organization is on the road to recovery. We challenge other constituent organizations to join us in helping to shape the future of nursing education, practice, and research. We also accept the support of NLN through their Constituent Organization Advisory Council Executive Committee members and their efforts to improve the relationship between NLN and constituent organizations.