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Recognizing the rapid pace at which change is occurring in occupational health, the Atlanta-based American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) is seeking to ensure its long-term success through a dramatic new approach to strategic planning. While AAOHN has used strategic planning since the mid-1980s, the association has taken an entirely different approach to the process.
"Recognizing that the association operates in a dynamic and demanding environment that needs to remain relevant as a business and competitive as a profession, strategic planning is now viewed as an ongoing process,"1 wrote Anne R. Cox, CAE, AAOHN executive director, in the June 2001 issue of the AAOHN Journal. One of the highest priorities in this new approach, Cox wrote, is "environmental scanning" — a continual monitoring of both the profession of occupational health nursing and the trends affecting all associations.
"Fifteen years ago, 80% of our membership was company-based," notes Deborah V. DiBenedetto, AAOHN president. "Now, that figure is closer to 15% to 20%. Through downsizing and outsourcing, a lot of members have lost their positions, but other kinds of work are now available: third-party contractor, entrepreneur, employee health aide. The tried and true vision of nursing within four walls’ is changing."
It is precisely because of those changes, Cox said, that AAOHN must now think outside the box. In September 1999, AAOHN began its fourth strategic planning process, to address these issues:
"Major questions were posed throughout the entire process to encourage out-of-the-box thinking in crafting the next strategic direction for AAOHN," Cox wrote. "As a business, changes were needed to allow AAOHN to seize opportunities more quickly to create increased value for members and customers."1
The common expectations of the strategic planning team addressed five major issues:
1. the changing role of occupational and environmental health nurses;
2. the incorporation of technological solutions in the visioning process;
3. the influence of the association’s responsiveness, fiscal responsibility, and integration with other organizations on attraction, recruitment, and retention of members;
4. communicating AAOHN’s role to foster greater public awareness, collaboration with other organizations, and input in legislative matters;
5. developing research and resources to help design new delivery models, increase return on investment models, and promote advances in the field of occupational and environmental health.
The planning group further developed 15 "High Level Issue Expectations," which fell under three broad categories: organizational structure, service and service delivery, and partnership and external influences. Business, health care, economic, demographic, social, technological, political, and occupational and environmental health and safety professional issues and trends were considered," noted Cox. "From the perspective of AAOHN as a business, it was equally important to assess issues and trends, such as competition, that will dramatically influence the environment in which associations operate."1
The planning team ultimately identified these five statements, which encapsulate what they want the association to be:
— the proactive primary resource, in all aspects, for occupational and environmental health professionals;
— the universally recognized authority for occupational and environmental health professionals related to standards of practice, business, management, safety and health, and work force productivity;
— a dynamic and evolving association that engages the membership and is receptive and visionary to its members and all occupational and environmental health nurses’ and professionals’ needs;
— a financially strong and solvent organization;
— a professional organization with a strong voice influencing government legislation; health care policy; and practices to promote, protect, and secure the health and safety of workers.
To achieve this new vision, AAOHN adopted the following strategic goals:
• Business, government, workers, and other key publics recognize the value and contributions of occupational and environmental health nurses.
• New and enhanced strategic alliances advance the profession and the goals of AAOHN.
• The AAOHN shapes legislation, regulations, and public policy that positively impact the profession of occupational and environmental health nursing.
• Through a dynamic organizational structure, AAOHN advances the profession.
• The AAOHN is the recognized authority and resource in occupational and environmental health practice and research.
"The Board and staff continue to participate in a highly collaborative process to identify emerging opportunities and consider possible future scenarios requiring the association to reshape itself responsibly," Cox concludes. "More than ever, AAOHN will need to anticipate the future and take action to position the association well for the 21st century."1
[For more information, contact:
• Deborah V. DiBenedetto, President, American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc., 2920 Brandywine Road, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30341. Telephone: (770) 455-7757. Fax: (770) 455-7271. World Wide Web: www.aaohn.org.
• Anne R. Cox, Executive Director, American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc., 2920 Brandywine Road, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30341. Telephone: (770) 455-7757. Fax: (770) 455-7271. World Wide Web: www.aaohn.org.]
1. Cox AR. The art of strategic planning — creating the future path. AAOHN Journal 2001; 49(6):280-285.