1. Madden, Lori Kennedy
  2. Baumann, JJ

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"Without goals and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination." -Fitzhugh Dodson,1 author


For our professional organization, the development of goals and the plan to reach them is referred to as a strategic plan. Not only does it provide a roadmap to reach established goals, but it is also used as a tool to gauge progress. The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN) develops an updated strategic plan every 3 to 4 years. The last strategic planning session was in November 2015. The goals, plan, and progress have been shared at our annual meetings and in the AANN annual report. In the last few years, the Neuro Network community platform was launched, a new learning management system was implemented, a mentorship task force was developed, the AANN Board Mentee position was created, the Clinical Science and Diversity and Inclusion Committees were developed, and partnerships with key nursing organizations were formed. With successful and timely implementation of the strategic plan, it was time to develop a new plan to help shape where our professional organization should sail next.


The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses is a large organization with many stakeholders. To ensure every interest was represented and every voice was heard, more than 50 individuals with varying roles in the organization met in July 2019 at the AANN offices in Chicago, Illinois. Representatives included the AANN Board of Directors (BOD) gathered with the AANN executive director, management staff, and other stakeholders such as the editor of the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, president of the American Board of Neuroscience Nursing, president of the Agnes Marshall Walker Foundation, and AANN committee leaders. Before the meeting, participants were asked to complete an environmental scan to identify trends and better understand relationships that impact the organization (Fig 1). This process is an evaluation of the "external environment" outside the organization and functions as an assessment of industry, competitor, and customer (members and patients) trends. The group also considered each of these in the context of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis. One strength of our organization is that many members are experts in various neuroscience specialties. However, the participants noted that many neuroscience nurses-expert or not-do not join AANN. This may be considered a weakness. Those neuroscience nurses who are not AANN members might identify with other entities such as critical care or multidisciplinary subspecialty organizations. This could be an opportunity to identify the needs of these individuals and make membership more desirable. Furthermore, nurses may not receive financial support from their facility for membership or conferences, a threat to involvement with AANN.

Figure 1 - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE 1. Environmental Scan: Topics Addressed by Participants

The planning session was facilitated by Janet Smith, president of Ivy Planning Group. She helps many organizations with their strategic planning, most of them with larger budgets. Executive director Leah Zamora met with her in advance and took the opportunity to tell her about our organization and the strides made with the last strategic plan. Impressed by our group, Janet took our "offer" at a pro bono rate. With her assistance, everyone came together, developing a renewed mission and vision, collaborative goals, and a cohesive plan. The day and a half meeting was inclusive, with the intent to address all interests in the process.


Defining the mission and vision of the organization is a key step in the strategic planning process. These high-level statements serve as a sort of "north star" in guiding the detailed decisions made by leadership. In fact, these statements are printed on the back of name cards for each leadership meeting so that they are directly in front of every participant to remind them and guide discussion and decision making. These statements should answer the questions "Why do we exist?" (mission) and "What are we offering and where are we heading" (vision). The mission was revised to "AANN leads neuroscience health through engagement, education, and advocacy." It is intended to communicate AANN's leadership along with the strategies used to foster connections with members. The current vision for AANN was approved in 2016: "AANN is indispensable to nurses and neuroscience healthcare."


Advocacy, education, and membership were 3 priorities that resonated throughout the sessions. Many goals emerged during the exercises, including (1) reinforcing the importance of AANN as a leader in neuroscience healthcare and setting nursing practice standards, (2) engaging nurses who provide care to neuroscience patients to join AANN (despite that they may not self-identify as a neuroscience nurse), (3) providing more meaningful opportunities for nurses to connect with AANN to increase engagement, (4) providing resources for neuroscience specialties if we do not currently offer education or products, (5) understanding neuroscience nurses and their professional needs, and (6) increasing the visibility of neuroscience nurses and their advocacy for patients and families.


The next steps that occur as a part of this process are to identify the specific and measurable goals and objectives, along with the tactics to achieve these. A task force will work on these details and forward them to the BOD for review and approval. The BOD will determine staffing, budget, and financing needs.


The resultant strategic plan reflects a shared vision of AANN's role, values, and priorities. This process explicitly articulates organizational priorities and includes identification of programmatic and operational goals and tactics with clear metrics and timelines. The final strategic plan will be shared at the upcoming 2020 Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.




1. Dodson F. The You That Could Be. New York, NY: Pocket Books; 1977. [Context Link]