March 01, 2003

Finding Ways to Find Attendees

Jannetti's Cynthia Nowicki
Jannetti’s Cynthia Nowicki The nation’s critical shortage of nurses, estimated at more than 100,000 vacancies, also has challenged industry associations that must do what they can to avoid disastrous showings at meetings.

In recent years, attendance at the New York State Nursing Association’s multiday conferences has suffered because understaffed hospitals are reluctant to give nurses time off or the nurses are too busy to attend, said Mark Genovese, spokesperson for the NYSNA in Latham, N.Y.

Money also is an issue. Nurses increasingly must rely on their own finances to attend meetings because hospitals are cash-strapped, said Christy Edminster, director of convention services at the National Nursing Staff Development Organization in Pensacola, Fla. Workshops at the NNSDO conference can cost hundreds of dollars above the registration fee, she said.

Addressing the crisis has become a priority for nursing associations, many of which rely heavily on meetings revenue for funding.

NYSNA and other groups have resorted to bringing their efforts to hospitals and clinics. “Our education department has held cultural-diversity and clinical-area sessions at facilities because nurses just can’t get out,” said Genovese.

Another tactic used by NYSNA was to move its conference from upstate New York to Manhattan. In 2001, the group managed to attract twice as many attendees as its upstate gatherings, because most were within easier commuting distance.

Another growing alternative is teleconferencing, which allows nurses to take seminars or to vote for association leaders from their home computers. In each of the last two years, for example, the Pitman, N.J.-based American Nephrology Nurses Association has seen a 7 percent rise in the use of teleconferencing.

To address funding issues, many groups have controlled registration fees, said Anthony J. Jannetti, president and CEO of Anthony J. Jannetti Inc., a Pitman, N.J.-based association management company with seven nursing organizations. Jannetti’s firm, whose clients have seen flat attendance for three years, also has encouraged exhibitors to sponsor attendees.

Nursing groups might find relief in the short-term.

Hospitals desperate to attract nurses have begun offering benefits such as educational leave, said Cynthia Nowicki, Jannetti’s vice president of nursing education.

Time will tell whether meeting participation will improve. However, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expecting the shortage to double by 2010, the prognosis is decidedly grim.


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