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The Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) is approaching its 25th anniversary with nostalgia and celebration. For the sake of the 10 million Americans who depend on local VNAs, the organization is also looking forward and finding new ways to help members thrive in a competitive marketplace.


The anniversary year began in April with the VNAA's 24th annual meeting in Orlando. It was the largest annual meeting yet, as membership rose 20% early in 2006. A major goal for the anniversary year, membership growth strengthens the VNAA's clout with policy makers and ensures that more local VNAs have access to resources that can help them enhance quality while containing costs. The entire membership will be invited for the culminating event of the anniversary year, the 25th Annual Meeting in Palm Desert, California. Along with the educational opportunities traditionally offered, the event will feature a gala and an awards ceremony honoring VNAA founders.


The founders envisioned an organization that would be a force for nonprofit home care in Washington. "We have the ability to sit at the table," said VNNA President and CEO Carolyn Markey. "We are respected because VNAs are so highly respected." The organization is regularly called upon for testimony and advice by the federal Department of Health and Human Services and by key Congressional committees.


Partnerships with the private sector are also an important hallmark of the first quarter century. Markey pointed to the VNAA's collaboration with pharmaceutical companies to produce patient education programs on issues such as the new Medicare drug benefit. VNAA has also been highly effective in securing flu vaccines for members.


As a not-for-profit organization, the VNAA recognizes the need for diversified funding. Markey cited the organization's success in obtaining grants. This milestone achievement allows it to increase service at no cost to members. The VNAA CHAMP initiative, which prepares nurse managers to bring the latest in geriatric research and continuous quality improvement to their member VNAs, is funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies. The Langeloth Foundation supported upgrades to the VNAA website.


An enhanced website is just one of the communication initiatives that will mark the anniversary year. Educating consumers, healthcare providers, and corporate leaders about the distinctive mission of the VNAs remains a key component of the VNAA's work.


As the VNAA enters its next 25 years, Markey looks forward to helping members succeed in their traditional work of providing care in the inner cities while diversifying to serve aging baby boomers. The organization offers strategies to help VNAs compete effectively with for-profit providers. For example, the VNAA provides a comprehensive how-to kit to help members set up travel clinics, a revenue source that draws on the VNAs' experience running vaccination programs. By supporting CEOs and financial managers, Markey believes the VNAA will play an invaluable role as VNAs build financially sound practices that enable them to care for the populations they were founded to serve.