From its original 121 member institutions when it was founded in 1969, American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has grown to more than 700 member institutions in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico. Besides advocacy, AACN is a resource to its members in a number of other ways: sponsoring an autonomous accreditation unit, developing curriculum standards and warehousing statistics about nursing schools and students across the country.
AACN's CEO, Geraldine "Polly" Bednash, PhD, RN, came to AACN in 1986; she explains the organization's growth like this: "When I first started at AACN, we had seven staff members, and this organization was basically a networking group for deans of nursing programs," she said. "Now, however, AACN has nearly 50 employees and strives to benefit everyone involved in nursing academics-deans, faculty, students, grad students, researchers and business staff."
As a profession, nursing has expanded similarly. Besides the traditional roles of nurses as frontline caregivers, nurses can now be found as CEOs and high-level government appointees. (Bednash points out that Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, began her career as a nurse.)
"We've become a much more expansive career option, with lots of places where nursing knowledge and experience and science is important to the decisions shaping both the delivery and the business of health care," Bednash said.
Advocacy is another key facet of AACN's work. Nurses can play a key role in explaining the implications of research to legislators and the need to follow the evidence when making health care policy. To that end, AACN has extensive resources for nurse scientists and nursing researchers to understand and explain why its work is important.
Research!America's own work in that area is a key reason why AACN is a member.
"AACN applauds Research!America for delivering the message that science is an important part of this country's investment for the future, and that the National Institutes of Health is a vital resource for improving the health care of our nation's population," Bednash said. "Research!America is making clear that research is not some esoteric, distant activity created by people in obscure places, but in fact is critically important to addressing this country's major health care concerns."
Learn more at www.aacn.nche.edu.