News & Events

New nursing group divides ANA: AARN piggybacks on CNA’s success

New nursing group divides ANA: AARN piggybacks on CNA’s success, fights fornurse-staffing ratios

By: Jeff Tieman
February 11,2002 Issue
The Week in Healthcare

State nurses who broke away from the American Nurses Association are forming a new, national organization that could broaden the influence of the aggressive and action-oriented California Nurses Association.

The nascent group, called the American Association of Registered Nurses, could initially represent as many as 70,000 nurses from California, Massachusetts, Maine and Pennsylvania. Other states including Arizona, Missouri and New York have expressed interest in possibly joining the new association, organizers said. The ANA represents 2.6 million registered nurses.

The new group’s formation comes at a time when the nursing profession has garnered national attention. Earlier this month two separate studies quantified a "severe shortage of healthcare workers" that includes a 13% vacancy rate among registered nurses. Meanwhile, last month California became the first state to adopt minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, a move that thrilled nursing groups but has been met with resistance from other camps, including the hospitals that will have to foot the bill.

At a meeting last week in San Diego, the state groups identified legislative priorities for their new association, discussed workplace improvements it intends to promote, and hired a lobbyist to represent its interests in Washington. The AARN also would serve as a union representing its members’ interest in labor negotiations.

The AARN "is a chance for the hands-on, direct-care nurse, n matter what the setting, to have a national voice and an eye and ear in Washington to keep on top of what’s happening," said Kay McVay, president of the 40,000-member California Nurses Association.

The new group’s supporters said the success the CNA has had in pushing its agenda in California would move eastward as the AARN develops. The CNA sponsored California’s first-of-its-kind nurse-staffing law, for which the state proposed ratios last month. Using the CNA’s experience and resources, the AARN could help make mandatory staffing ratios more common, said Bill

Cruice, director of the 4,500-member Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, another founding member.

Perhaps the most vocal and politically active nurse group in the country, the CNA broke away from the ANA in 1995, citing the ANA’s lack of action on the legislative and labor fronts. The Massachusetts nurses also left the organization nearly a year ago, and Maine’s nurses bolted from the ANA shortly thereafter.

The ANA "has been far too moderate in its position and has failed in helping front-line nurses achieve safe working and practice conditions and the clout they need to provide the care patients deserve," said David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the 20,000-member Massachusetts Nurses Association.

ANA spokeswoman Cindy Price said her group viewed the AARN "as simply trying to emulate and duplicate what the ANA has and is already doing … Splintering off creates more fragmentation, and it diminishes the voice of nursing in political and policy arenas."

The ANA is the largest, oldest and best group representing nurses, said Joseph Niemczura, who heads a 100-member ANA chapter in Maine. The ANA’s resources, he said, "would be impossible to duplicate."

But that’s not how the new association’s founders see the matter.
"If (the ANA) represented nurses it would be all right, but they represent administration and possibly academia," McVay said. "They do not, in my opinion, represent direct-care nurses."

The AARN has not been incorporated and has not applied for not-for-profit association status, sources said. McVay said she was not ready to say when the group would make its existence legally official.

[Modern Healthcare Magazine]