Diane Romano-Woodward, president of the Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners (UK) (AOHNP), took the helm in November 2014. It was a pivotal moment, with work on a new faculty for OH nurses about to begin and an overhaul of nurse accreditation by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) imminent. Here, she reflects on a hectic first six months.
I took over the presidency of the AOHNP at the annual general meeting (AGM) on 20 November 2014. This was an interesting and uncertain time as the proposed merger of the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) was not going ahead. The anticipated joint working between both bodies and with OH nurses was up in the air and the role of the AOHNP was unclear. So it was a matter of stagnate and see what happens or go for growth, and we chose the latter. In recent years, the association has been very outward looking, with joint working with other groups and the publication of Contemporary occupational health nursing – a guide for practitioners.
New approach for the AOHNP
I felt that in the initial period I needed to get to grips with what AOHNP offered members and how it was run, taking the approach of a small business and ensuring financial prudence and listening to its customers and their needs. What I was hearing was that we did not communicate well with members, and that the organisation was perceived as elitist and not relevant to many practitioners.
We looked at the structure of the board and found that the regional representative aspect was not working. The board members remain as regional contacts but continue with other activities, such as working on charitable status or the new website.
Around the time of the AGM, several board members retired and we are truly grateful for the efforts they have put in on behalf of our members. We brought in some new faces and roles: a communications director; an events director; and a person to deal with members’ and other queries. It so happens that some of the new members live not far from my base in Leicester and they are fondly known as the “Midlands mafia”. The board positions are not yet fully defined and still a work in progress.
Our much-loved and long-serving administrator Linda Riseborough decided to retire, forcing a search for a replacement. We were fortunate in finding Lucy Cadman, and the transition has gone seamlessly for members, mainly due to the close working and handover provided by Linda.
We looked at reducing costs, improving the payments methods offered and generally reducing outgoings. A face-to-face board meeting was moved to Leicester from London, with reduction in room hire costs and travel expenses. We are exploring Skype conferencing and investing in technology to reduce our costs further.
We have been improving our use of social media, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook platforms. Both the AOHNP’s own web pages and the UK Occupational Health Practitioners Facebook pages started by OH adviser Grant Ciccone, are now at around 950 members. We have sharpened the circulation of emails to members and consulted on possible commercial activity, which is not universally approved of by members.
Communications with those who are not yet members has also improved. On a personal level, I have attended training in public speaking with the National Speaker’s Association and the results are pleasing. I have attended OH gatherings and regional meetings of OH nurses in the Thames Valley, the South-West and Leicestershire, the meeting of the North East Occupational Health Nurses’ (NEON) group in June.
In association with Kays Medical, AOHNP speakers will be doing 15 revalidation roadshow events between September and December in England and Wales. In 2016, we will be doing similar talks across Scotland, and Glasgow has been chosen as the location for our AGM next year.
We have been successful in encouraging members to become more active and to sit on various committees on our behalf. They provide an OH perspective on Professional Organisations in Occupational Safety and Health (POOSH), contribute to guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the British Standards Institution and the British Dietetics Association.
AOHNP NMC revalidation pilot
Work on the NMC revalidation pilot has been time consuming, with meetings and constantly shifting goalposts. My portfolio on the AOHNP was on display at the NEC to encourage others. The “dress-rehearsal” has been completed by 30 OH nurses, and I had professional development discussions with six of them and confirmation conversations with four of them. I have been greatly enthused by reflecting on good practice with our colleagues. Ideally, nurses should prepare over three years for revalidation, but a 21-day countdown to portfolio was published in Occupational Health in May to help them.
I am also called upon to answer OH queries by email, phone and even Facebook. I think it is fair to say that I have become one of the most accessible AOHNP presidents and I am happy for this to continue. I can be found in London and at meetings of the FOM, SOM, National School of OH and at SEQOHS, and I work on the evolving Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing. This is a project I am passionate about and I am happy to say that the AOHNP is making up to £8,000 available for start-up costs.
I would like to remind all OH nurses that they are welcome at the AGM and Good Practice Forum on 18 September in London and AOHNP Educational Cruise from Southampton to Bruges on 10-12 October. There is a fair chance, though, that you will be persuaded to join the AOHNP.