Article - ACNP's governance journey
Need a healthier Board?
The Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) is a young organisation with highly engaged members undertaking a journey from fledgling start-up to professional peak body.
As with many modern-day professions, the Nurse Practitioner is quite new. Many people – consumers – don’t know what nurse practitioners are, so greater awareness of the profession is needed.
The nurse practitioner role originated in the US in the mid-1960s and began to gain recognition in Australia in 1990. The first state steering committee was organised in NSW in 2000, and the Australian Nurse Practitioner Association (ANPA) formed three years later. By mid-2005 there were five state chapters across Australia. In 2009, ANPA became ACNP. In 2015, the Board appointed its inaugural Chief Executive Officer, Amanda Davies.
We spoke to Amanda about governance, Board challenges, and where to from here.
“Although the organisation is young, there are a lot of legacy structures stemming from how the College previously operated, as ANPA.
“The Board is structured to include representation from each state and territory,” Amanda said.
“Board members are all clinicians – all nurse practitioners. They are all highly skilled and used to working within the governance frameworks of health care, however many were not familiar with contemporary decision making structures.
Because it had been such an operational Board and the CEO role was new, Amanda faced problems with implementing activities and timely decision making. It was difficult for a large Board to support the CEO role effectively.
Also a Nurse Practitioner, Amanda recognised that the organisation would gain value from governance expertise and leadership from someone with experience in the not-for-profit sector.
“I’d had a conversation with Kate (Hartwig) prior to embarking on this process. I knew we needed to change and that I needed to take the Board on a journey,” Amanda said.
Kate was appointed to assist the ACNP to work through Board roles and responsibilities, contemporary governance structures, and solutions to the structural problems that would support the organisation to move forward.
“Kate has provided advice about reshaping the structure, to be functional and representative of good governance practice.
This will involve a Constitutional change, as well as a structural change to the Board, with the establishment of a National Executive Council.
“ACNP is in a growth phase, where we need to focus on the fundamental organisational changes needed to support business development,” Amanda said.
“Board members have limited Board experience or experience in running a membership organisation.
“We’ve identified a number of skill gaps. There is no expertise in managing associations, marketing, membership, or entrepreneurship,” Amanda explained.
“These are all skills that the organisation needs to grow – we need greater diversity of skills on the Board, aligned to the new strategic direction of the organisation.”
“Kate provided clear guidance and information to the Board. She was able to demonstrate best practice and provide the case for change.
“Kate is very generous with her time, she is clear about the outcomes we are working towards. Her expertise and advice was well received by the Board and she was a great fit for our organisation,” Amanda said.