From all over the state, about 100 delegates of the Alabama State Nursing Association as well as others in the nursing profession will gather locally for the ASNA's 105th annual convention starting today through Saturday.

The convention is a time for conducting business, continuing education and connecting with other nurses in the field, among other things. Keynote speakers are Gov. Kay Ivey and Dr. Terri Poe, chief nursing officer, senior vice president at UAB Hospital and an Opelika native.

The ASNA, founded in 1913, advocates for nurses in Alabama, acting as "the professional voice for nursing in the state," said ASNA President Rebecca Huie, who works as the director of primary care at Birmingham VA Medical Center.

One way ASNA does this is by being involved in the political arena and working with other organizations with similar goals. The association has been successful in getting legislation passed that promotes the safety of nurses.

"We did, years ago, get a law passed in the state of Alabama that attacking a nurse is a felony charge," Huie said. "So, we look at violence against nursing and we look at any other issues that may be impacting the nursing profession.

"We have to be involved in the political arena; we have to be aware of what's going on in that area because it does impact how we deliver care to patients and impacts things regarding our profession, like health care, insurance and access to care."

And the more that nurses reach out to ASNA or become a member, the more aware ASNA delegates and officers can be of what issues nurses face on a daily basis, Huie said.

"We want to hear from nurses that are really at the bedside doing the work every day," she said. "It's very important for nurses to bring issues to us. We encourage that on our social media ... It's very easy to contact us, let us know if you're having issues. We as an organization can't take on issues if we're not aware of them."

The annual convention is a time when ASNA delegates from all over the state can bring forward any issues their area faces, and certain issues will be voted on in a resolution. In the past, resolutions were approved to bring more awareness to the opioid crisis and to mental health access in the state.

"It's the official business going forward of the association," said John Ziegler, executive director of ASNA, who stressed the importance of the association's work. "People sometimes assume that nursing care has advanced to such high levels by accident or osmosis, just the demand of the marketplace, so to speak. But truthfully, it's a combination of the needs of the public and the advocacy of nurse leaders, nurse advocates who see a need and they fight for those improvements."

ASNA also provides nurses with leadership development and mentor opportunities as well as ways to connect with others in the field.

"(ASNA) really connects you to so many things and opens so many doors that it's unbelievable," Huie said.

While there are close to 96,000 registered nurses in the state, Huie said ASNA has just shy of 2,000 members. She said that increasing membership has been a goal of hers since becoming president in 2016 because she feels ASNA provides a needed service to nurses in Alabama. She also said ASNA could make more of an impact if it were to grow.

"Sadly, that is why we don't have more power and a bigger voice in the state of Alabama," she said of the membership numbers. "If every nurse was a member, ASNA would have a huge voice which could influence change in health care delivery, policy and legislation related to the health care system."

Those wishing to find out more information about ASNA can visit its website, www.alabamanurses.org. Membership for RNs is $15 a month.

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