The ‘i’ has it – out with the old (AOHNP) and in with the new (iOH)

The Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners has rebranded as a more multidisciplinary occupational health membership body called ‘iOH’. Nic Paton met iOH president Lucy Kenyon to find out what the change has all been about

Meeting Lucy Kenyon, president of iOH, formerly the Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners (AOHNP), I want to get one thing straight first of all. Exactly what does the “i” in iOH stand for?

Lucy laughs. “It stands for inspiring, it stands for innovating, it stands for inspirational. It doesn’t stand for anything specific – it stands for lots of things that are our ethos and values. And it is much easier to say than AOHNP!”

The “i” of iOH (https://ioh.life/) is not the only thing that has been causing some confusion. The transition from AOHNP – a well-known (if not easy to say) brand within the OH community – to a new look, branding and website has left some OH practitioners bemused as to exactly what has been going on within the OH member organisation.

I sat down with Lucy at the Health and Wellbeing at Work conference in Birmingham in March, and at the Ruth Alston Memorial Lecture at the same event, to set the record straight about what has been a challenging period since the proposed merger between AOHNP and the new Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing (FOHN) unravelled approximately a year ago.

Governance and process complications

To understand how AOHNP arrived at iOH it is perhaps helpful first to understand how and why such an apparently complementary merger failed to come off. Lucy is clear that, from her side at least, the reason the merger failed to progress was simply down to being unable to resolve complex governance and process issues around the technicalities of merging rather than any clash or conflict between the two bodies.

“What they (FOHN) are aiming to achieve in terms of standards-setting is all good stuff, and all of which we agree with. We still have informal links with FOHN. We are all colleagues; it is a small community. We genuinely see opportunities where we can collaborate and work together in the future. We just came to the conclusion it couldn’t be done under the umbrella of AOHNP,” she says.

“We have not seen any of this as a negative. In fact, we’ve seen this as an absolute positive to revisit, to re-evaluate, to reflect, to audit what we’re doing. Really I think it has galvanised us into realising that, actually, what we provide is a bloody good service; members are getting real benefit from membership; it is helping and supporting members and it is enabling members to be the best practitioners they can be, and that has an impact on the reputation of occupational health nursing more widely,” Lucy adds.

The merger of AOHNP and FOHN had intended to be concluded by the time of the AOHNP’s annual general meeting last October. When it became clear this was not now going to happen – compounded by the fact many members were deep in the throes of last year’s flu vaccination campaign and so the timing was not ideal anyway – the decision was taken to postpone the AGM, step back, draw breathe and take a long, hard look at ‘what now?’.

“We decided we would postpone the AGM so we could hold a review,” says Lucy. “We carried out a root-and-branch analysis and review of our aims, objectives, activities and benefits, with our founding president and some of the founding board members to make sure we did not lose the ethos of what AOHNP (now iOH) was all about. We undertook the rebranding exercise really to preserve and modernise the organisation for our growing membership.”

Increasingly multi-disciplinary world

One of the key conclusions of that review was, in an increasingly multi-disciplinary occupational health world, there was potentially an appetite for a more multi-disciplinary representative body for occupational health.

“We have always been an inclusive organisation; we had something called associate membership and we looked at that and felt our associate members work closely with us in occupational health and there was no reason for them not to have voting rights,” says Lucy.

“Yet in the original name AOHNP there were the words ‘nurse practitioner’. We felt that, actually, if our associate members are now going to be full members, we needed to lose the nurse practitioner label. That was when we discovered that ‘i’ is not a protected symbol and we just thought ‘let’s go funky and modern’.

“Everyone who is a health professional or a scientist in occupational health who chooses to join us – AHPs, occupational therapists or whoever they are – who wants to join our organisation to share in our knowledge and expertise and our journal, website and support line, can do so,” says Lucy.

“On top of this we have the option of corporate membership. This gives access to certain parts of the site but not the full site, and so we’ve been able to differentiate between corporate and other members. There is more opportunity for members to have a one-stop-shop for all the information to help them with their professional development, their revalidation, their knowledge, skills, experience.”

In terms of membership numbers, Lucy says iOH is currently running at around the 500 mark, compared with approximately 400 under the AOHNP.

However, of course, with the broader remit and outlook, the mix of this membership is quite different from what went before. Full or associate membership costs £66 a year (or £5.50 a month), with a £20 concessionary membership for students, new parents or those who are retired or unwaged.

“The key benefit is members can network with fellow health professionals; they have got access to the expertise of the board and what we are now calling our board advocates – they used to be known as our board activists.

“These are people who volunteer their time and skills to support and mentor more junior people coming into the career and helping them with their career development. Because, as we all know, the education has changed over the years and actually the amount of experience you get as part of your training is different to how it used to be,” says Lucy.

iOH also has links with the National School of Occupational Health and is currently in discussions with the University of Derby about partnering on an upcoming research project, with the aim of running a CPD event later this year.

“Occupational health is an autonomous environment, and the need for support is increasing, simply because of the legislative and regulatory environment we work in.

“Whoever chooses to join iOH, whether they are working with businesses providing occupational health or wellbeing or health and safety or whatever it is they are doing, our goals is to ensure they have information, support and advice at their fingertips – including via our support and peer advice line – and can keep up to date with evidence-based practice,” Lucy adds.

Reference

Merger of occupational health nursing bodies called off, Personnel Today, 06 June 2018, https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/merger-of-occupational-health-nursing-bodies-called-off/

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