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Celebrating Evolution in Nursing: The NSNA 60th Anniversary Convention

March 2012

Students have been called the single greatest resource for the nursing profession – they can help shape the future of the field, and in turn, the overall healthcare arena. Nursing leaders can help prepare the next generation of nurses by offering students valuable insights as they prepare to launch their careers. One of the best opportunities for students to learn how the profession has progressed and will continue to evolve is through the National Student Nurses' Association (NSNA), the country's largest organization dedicated to the interests of student nurses.

This spring, NSNA will host its 60th Anniversary Convention and Alumni Reunion. For student nurses and healthcare professionals, the convention is a golden opportunity to learn from top leaders about how the field has changed in the past 60 years and to prepare for a transition into the profession. The convention will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, April 11-15, in Pittsburgh.

Attendees will learn more about the rich heritage of NSNA's formation and mission. "State and school student nurse groups grew in popularity from the early to mid 20th century but none had been created on the national level," recalls Diane Mancino, EdD, RN, CAE, FAAN, and Executive Director of NSNA. "The 1952 American Nurses Association (ANA) and National League for Nursing (NLN) joint convention was an important turning point in our history."

At that time, the ANA was reorganizing and amending its bylaws, which included the proposal of a student council. Simultaneously, 1,000 students in attendance were gathering to create their own independent organization. "At the closing of the convention, a proposal was put forth to form a national, independent body for student nurses, under the counsel of the National League for Nursing (NLN) and the ANA. The president of the ANA enthusiastically supported the students' ambitions, and thus the NSNA as we know it today was born," said Mancino.

This spirit of progress across the nursing field continued into the next several decades, with NSNA membership helping to define student nurse rights and responsibilities. "One of the greatest contributions to our field coming out of this era was NSNA's bill of rights and responsibilities, and later the development of a comprehensive code of ethics," said Mancino. "These principles were and continue to be critical in unifying student nurses across the country in nursing programs and helping to guide their behavior in professional organizations, academic and clinical settings. It also provides a forum for them to connect and exchange ideas, just as they will do each year at the convention."

This year's convention theme, "Spanning the Distance: 60 Years of the Evolving Nurse," comes when the profession is seeing record nursing program enrollment and an expansion of new specialty areas and opportunities for nurses joining the profession. In recent years, nursing has seen an oversupply of new graduates as a result of the economic recession. In response, NSNA has encouraged students facing a grim economy to consider continuing their education so they are more competitive once the market rebounds, according to Mancino. Furthermore, new RN graduates are starting to see more opportunities in community and free-standing facilities that did not exist before. "It is more important than ever for nurses to understand how to comprehensively manage their own careers," said Mancino.

To help navigate these and other hot topics, NSNA convention sessions will feature well-respected professionals who will communicate words of wisdom and encouragement to tomorrow's leaders. The "Sage Advice" session will feature several leaders, including past NSNA Executive Directors Robert Piemonte, EdD, RN, CAE, FAAN and Mary Ann Tuft, MA, CAE, who will offer insights about their own experiences in nursing and discuss how they see the profession evolving.

Last year's sensational "Launching Your Career" session returns this year, where eight panelists will share how NSNA has helped them navigate the progression of their own careers. This year's keynote speaker, Mary Foley, MS, RN, is a prime example of a leader who has not only witnessed NSNA history but has played a significant role in creating it. She was the NSNA president at the time that the NSNA Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for Students of Nursing was presented and passed in the NSNA House of Delegates. She went on to become president of the ANA – the first NSNA president to hold that position.

While the speakers reflect NSNA's rich heritage and bring back past favorites, the convention will also inject new features. A convention mobile app and blog will provide ongoing updates and support interactive dialogue about happenings throughout the four days. In addition, the Foundation of the NSNA will launch its Forever Nursing—The Endowment Campaign for FNSNA as well as kick off its "Inaugural Fun Run/Walk" and host an annual live auction to raise money for scholarships.

This year's NSNA convention will provide student nurses with a deep appreciation for all that nursing offers. "Students will gain exposure to several nursing specialty areas and leave with a positive energy about how and where they wish to start their careers," said Mancino. "We hope attendees will return to their campuses and communities inspired to take a lifetime interest in nursing."

For more information about the 60th NSNA Convention and Alumni Reunion, please visit www.nsna.org.

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