1. Tawa, Marianne C. RN, MSN, ANP

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Board service provides both opportunity and challenge. As president of the Dermatology Nurses' Association (DNA), I eagerly embraced the "opportunity" arm of board service. I had the privilege of spending 2 days in Albuquerque, New Mexico, attending the Seventh Annual Fall Summit for the Nursing Organizational Alliance. A DNA triad consisting of immediate past president Karrie Fairbrother, Executive Director Victoria Elliot, and I traveled on a brisk pre-Thanksgiving weekend to one of the Southwest's most treasured and culturally rich venues to share, compare, and "brag a bit" about our respective nursing associations. In efforts to offer context for why this gathering might have been a fruitful one for DNA membership, let me share some relevant history with you.

Marianne C. Tawa... - Click to enlarge in new windowMarianne C. Tawa

The Nursing Organizations Alliance (the Alliance) formed when two long-standing coalitions of nursing organizations came together to create an enduring collaborative entity. The goal for this union was and is quite simple: to promote a strong voice to address issues of concern for the community of nursing. The DNA triad shared company with the chief elected officers and chief staff officers of the other Alliance organizations. Examples of some of the diverse groups represented at the summit were the American Nurses Association, American Association of Nurse Executives, American College of Nurse Practitioners, American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, Emergency Nurses Association, and the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS).


The program for the 2008 Fall Summit carefully circled around and strategically nailed down the themes of "patient safety" and "alliance building." The keynote address was delivered by Charles Denham, MD, radiation oncologist, professor of biomedical engineering, and founder of Texas Medical Institute of Technology (TMIT). TMIT is a nonprofit medical research organization dedicated to drive adoption of clinical solutions for healthcare performance. He effectively set the stage for consideration of patient safety issues by recollecting the Institute of Medicine report, To Err is Human. Over the years, this important document has launched a myriad of additional programs coupling payment with quality and safety. Dr. Denham utilized battlefield imagery to describe the external outside forces imposed by organizations which certify and purchase versus the internal forces where requests are numerous and funding is finite. The combatants range from trustees, CEOs, medical and nursing leaders, frontline caregivers, patients, to families (Denham, 2006).


Dr. Denham captured my interest as he unfolded, Value s Genetics: Who Are the Real Smartest Guys in the Room? The lessons learned from the collapse of the $70-billion-in-value Enron Company over 24 short days speak of the critical importance of having a value set in place for corporations, hospitals, or perhaps even ones in dermatology practice. Respect, integrity, communication, and a quest for excellence are the unifying drivers for "smarts" in the real world (Denham, 2007).


Dr. Denham provided a clever schematic to depict how the "smartest guys' smarts" might transform organizations. He made connections and drew parallels between high-tech industry, challenging economic climates, and complex healthcare delivery systems. Dr. Denham was both deliberate and sincere as he recognized the vital role played by nursing in patient safety and the quality. Personal core values including intelligence quotient (or cognitive ability), emotional intelligence quotient (or capacity for self-awareness), and performance improvement quotient represent only one half of the stylized leadership chart. Balance is struck when intelligence quotient, emotional intelligence, and performance improvement quotient are rounded out by team members with knowledge and skills derived from education, experience, finance, and operations (Denham, 2007). Upon closer examination of this schematic, it seems reasonable to speculate that many of us possess a key component (or greater than 1) for transforming our organization.


Anne Rhoades, an Albuquerque resident; a people's systems thought leader; a culture architect; and an advisor to healthcare organizations, hotel chains, and airlines (including both Southwest and Jet Blue) impressed and motivated Alliance members for 20 remarkable minutes. Ms. Rhoades described the importance of creating an extraordinary work culture that mirrors the extraordinary people that comprise it. She shared words of wisdom on interviewing and nurturing employees, making and correcting mistakes while keeping core values front and center. No small challenge! I have long been a fan of Southwest Airlines, enjoying the quirkiness and humor aboard flight, but truly never gave much thought as to why the experience was just so[horizontal ellipsis]I get it now, thanks to the simple yet sage advice given by Ms. Rhoades.


Opening the door and keeping it open to the new generation of nurses was the timely topic presented by the National Student Nurses' Association president, Jenna Sanders. Thoughtfully engaging student nurses, offering mentorship opportunities, and providing an atmosphere that fosters mutual exchange of ideas are key components for future success. New-generation nurses are technologically savvy, fast paced, and keenly interested in exploring a variety of nursing roles. One never knows if a future dermatology nurse might be waiting in the wings for the welcome mat to be put out.


Leaders from the ONS expanded the thematic elements of "alliance" by presenting data on the Project Team/Advisory Panel Model for volunteerism. ONS leaders outlined the "how to" on selecting the right volunteers with the right skills with limited time commitments, faster time to market, and more opportunities. An online mentoring program using survey tools and an interactive match system enables and supports new members as they take the leap into association volunteer work. The concept of novice volunteers learning from and gaining historical perspective from current and past DNA leaders becomes a good one in my mind!


The DNA triad could certainly reflect on many other valuable lessons taught and meaningful exchanges had that neither time nor column space will permit. Suffice to say, the Nursing Organizations Alliance Fall Summit ignited new sparks for each of us. I am hopeful that this will translate into measured change for the way we view and perform our service within the DNA.


Marianne C. Tawa, RN, MSN, ANP




Dermatology Nurses' Association




Denham, C. R. (2006). The patient safety battles: Put on your armor. Journal of Patient Safety, 2, 97-101. [Context Link]


Denham, C. R. (2007). Values genetics: Who are the real smartest guys in the room? Journal of Patient Safety, 3(4), 214-226. [Context Link]