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AANP Member Spotlight: Nurse Practitioners as Elected Association Leaders

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Hear about the importance of serving in elected office and leading your nursing association forward.

On Oct. 3, nominations opened for the 2023 American Association of Nurse Practitioner® (AANP) Election. Elected positions on the ballot in 2023 will include the AANP Treasurer, regional directors in odd-numbered regions, state liaisons in even-numbered regions and two AANP Nomination Council positions. All eligible AANP members are encouraged to self-nominate by the Oct. 31 deadline.

AANP depends on members to lead the association — which starts by running for elected office — to ensure the organization is representative of its members. Tracy Klein, PhD, ARNP, FAAN, FAANP; Barbara Todd, DNP, CRNP, ACNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN; and Ken Miller, PhD, RN, CFNP, FAAN, FAANP, spoke with AANP about their time serving in AANP elected office and the importance of nurse practitioner (NP) leadership. Read on to learn more from these NPs about what it is like to serve in elected office and why advocating for patients and the NP role is so important.

Q: How were you inspired to become an elected NP leader?

Barbara Todd: By being in nursing, you’re a natural leader. I feel it’s my obligation to lead — to lead in the work I did on a day-to-day basis delivering care to patients, to belong to the professional organization that represented the work I did, to be a part of the decision-making body that decides in what direction our profession would go. That’s how I really got involved with AANP — because AANP represents me as an NP.

Tracy Klein: I had been in some leadership roles prior to my work on the board with AANP. Most of those were at a state level, and I had been on a number of different state committees specific to prescriptive authority. It seemed like a natural step from doing state-level work to really bump it up to work at the regional level.

Ken Miller: I got involved with AANP in 1998. I started going to their meetings and I thought, “Wow, this organization has a lot going for it. Maybe I should try to get involved.” Then I got involved with some other national organizations, such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. I became chair of one of their committees, and then I just kept rolling from there. It’s been something I enjoy doing because I enjoy giving back. In school, I had help through grants, and I figured it was time to give back — that’s why I got involved.

Q: Dr. Miller, could you say a little more about giving back?

Miller: I think whenever you get involved in any organization, there must be some impetus. And my impetus was to thank the people out there — and not individual people, but everyday people who are getting things done. When I got into an organization, there were key elements that I had to keep in mind. One was collaboration — you have to work with other people. You can’t go into it for reasons such as, “Well, I need it to get promoted to full professor,” or “I need it to get an increase in wages.” You have to collaborate with other people, and part of that collaboration scenario is really grounded in your ability to compromise.

Q: The 2023 AANP Election invites potential leaders to self-nominate for consideration to run for open positions. How would you encourage NPs to take that leap and self-nominate for an official leadership role?

Todd: I would talk to them about the health care environment in which we are living. I would point out the decisions that we as NPs make on a day-to-day basis and how that really impacts patient care outcomes, and I would challenge them as to whether they really want to be a decision maker within their profession. If they really want to drive health care outcomes of populations or advance the research of NP practice, they should certainly consider running. Often times people will say, “Oh, I can’t be a leader of the organization, I don’t know a, b, c or d,” but, in fact, you do know those things. I think we all have the capacity to lead — we just have to align the desire with the capacity.

Miller: Don’t ever doubt yourself. I think people do that, and a lot of it is done out of humility because we’ve been taught as nurses from the very beginning that we’re supposed to take orders and just stand there and shut up. That has changed. What we have to do is get some of these people who have been around for a while and say, “You’re ready. You’re ready to take on that role, so go for it.”

Klein: A lot of times people are leaders already, and they don’t recognize it, but part of that recognition is being able to connect with a mentor or an external person who can evaluate you and say, “Yeah you are ready.” It's great to tell people that they are ready and to step on up, but I also think it’s good to have that external view from people you trust and respect — and get more than one opinion about if you are ready or if there are other areas that you can develop further.

Q: Dr. Klein, could you talk about who mentored you and how that affected your trajectory?

Klein: One of the primary mentors in my academic and professional career has been Dr. Louise Kaplan. She is an AANP Fellow and is involved in multiple activities at the policy level. We have mentored each other over the years. She first started mentoring me when I became her student. As I took on leadership roles, I would occasionally bring her in to help me go further with my leadership. So, as an example, Dr. Kaplan has been an NP for a very long time and has a Ph.D. in health policy. I knew that I wanted to do work in health policy, and I didn’t know many people who were doing that work as NPs, so I reached out to her. That was probably 20 years ago, and over that time we have developed a mentorship relationship where we switched roles. When I was on the board, she actually became the state representative (now called state liaison) for Washington state. I was the director for the region at that time, so we moved forward into a peer relationship where we could help each other and then mentor other people.

Q: Why do you believe it is important for NPs to become involved in health policy and run for office, especially as busy and involved as NPs already are in their day-to-day lives?

Miller: I think it’s crucial for people to be involved with policy decisions, especially when it’s going to affect our practice. Right now, look at the number of states that have Full Practice Authority (FPA) with NPs not having to report to a physician or having overview by a physician. We don’t need that overview. We have shown throughout the years that as NPs we provide equivalent — if not better — care for the patients that we see.

Klein: It’s important to get involved in health policy is because it directly impacts what you can do as an NP, as well as what kind of access to care your patients get. I think that’s sort of the critical piece of health policy — it’s not just about really complex laws and testimony and things that people don’t understand. What it comes down to is what you can do in your practice and what services your patients can access. That’s what AANP is really focused on, and from an organizational standpoint, I think one of the strengths of AANP that I’ve always appreciated is that they do have some activities that are designed specifically for people who are interested in health policy. That would be the 2023 AANP Health Policy Conference, and that would be the mentorship that AANP provides to walk people through the process of going up to Capitol Hill and meeting with their legislators and having a conversation.

Todd: Oftentimes, we don’t make the connection between policy and practice. We feel that policy is for those other folks on the other side of the room to worry about. It’s really important for us to understand the connection between policy and practice, because practice is really driven by policy. Policy is an upstream effort, but it affects all of our work downstream — and who best to advise on policy than people who are actually doing the practice? We just have to make an explicit connection between the two.

Q. Dr. Todd, was there one particular thing that helped you make that connection?

Todd: What helped me make that connection was centered on prescriptions and our ability to prescribe and really lead the management of our patients through prescribing and getting prescriptive authority in the state in which I’m practicing. Also, there were some issues that occurred at the state level that were inhibiting my ability to practice as an NP. I think it was then that the light came on for me, so to speak, where I thought, “Hey, it’s important for you not only to be delivering great patient care on a day-to-day basis, but you really have to be involved with advocacy and policy to ensure that we have the correct protective rights to do what we have been educated to do.”

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add, or is there advice you might share for people who are considering self-nominating?

Todd: I want to encourage all members to get involved in AANP. I would really encourage people to review what the requirements are for running for a position, and I would encourage them to reach out to their state liaisons or regional directors to talk about opportunities and reach out to the AANP Nomination Council to inquire about positions. We really need to develop all NPs and we really need to develop a pipeline into leadership. I encourage all the NPs of AANP to really consider getting involved.

Thank you to the elected officials consulted here for their valuable insights. If reading these perspectives has developed your interest in moving the NP role forward and leading your organization, now is the time to explore the many opportunities available.

Participate in AANP Leadership Opportunities

Nominations for the 2023 AANP Election close on Oct. 31, and all eligible AANP members are encouraged to self-nominate. In Jan. 2023, a slate of candidates, bios and more will be posted on the AANP website, and in March 2023 voting will be held online.

If you are interested in enhancing your leadership skills, AANP offers many opportunities to help you achieve your goals.

  • Attend the 2023 Health Policy Conference Jan. 29-Jan. 31 in Washington, D.C., to increase your health policy knowledge and network with fellow NPs.
  • Complete the AANP Introductory Certificate on Leadership course in the AANP CE Center, and then apply for the AANP Executive Leadership Program before the Nov. 9 deadline.
  • Watch for the AANP Educational Leadership Certificate course, which is coming soon to the AANP CE Center. Note that this certificate does not qualify as a prerequisite for the AANP Executive Leadership Program.