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GNA CEO, Marcus Downs on Year 1 with the Georgia Nurses

Thursday, May 4, 2017  
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Dear GNA Members,


I have just completed my first year as the CEO of GNA/GNF.  This has been a positive year in which we have begun to learn each other.  I have compiled an annual report of my and our staff’s activities since May 2016.  While we have accomplished a significant amount over the past year, there are still unmeasurable amounts that can be achieved.  Until then, we should be proud of where we are and where we are going.  Please celebrate with me for a successful year and the promise of continued success!


In Service,






GNA is solvent but in need of increasing membership to help sustain the organization.  For too long, the organization focused on sponsorships rather than membership.  One of the keys to professional association’s existence is their ability to generate revenue through membership.  In turn, the organization provides professional and personal development opportunities and a unified voice to present issues common throughout the field of nursing. 

GNA is working toward both of these goals but increased membership is necessary to attain them.  Whether a nurse is a member or not, they receive the benefit of GNA’s work.  Please encourage your colleagues to join the Association.   


Building Considerations

All tenant space at the GNA is now completely leased.  GNA entered into a multi-year agreement with The Walk of Life Counseling Center

Additionally, GNA has entered into a multi-year agreement with Excelsior College for storage space within the facilities. 





GNA membership has been stagnant for some time.  There appears to be a national trend in this area as there are very few state organizations with memberships above 10,000 members.  GNA is in a unique position where we can partner with specialty societies to offer a discounted partnership rate.  While the financial consideration of membership is important, at this point, it is more important to have a sound core of members who can help with advocacy issues after having been provided the appropriate methods for advocacy that state organizations that have been successful have used.  This was one of my major focal points during this first year.  I will highlight some of the points that I believe are worth referencing for your information.


Membership May 2016- 2425

Membership April 2017- 2737

Increase of 312


In the absence of engaging in the strategic planning process that was scheduled for July 2016, we realized (as did the facilitator), that GNA needed to conduct a member survey to gauge interest and willingness to participate in association activities.  This had not been done since 2010.  We received 111 responses to the survey indicating that members wanted the following:


-More activity in areas such as Savannah and other geographic spaces outside of metro Atlanta

-More attention focused on the RN

-More partnership with the specialty societies


Georgia has three nurses who serve in the General Assembly who had never been a part of GNA (or invited to be a part of the Association).  Two of these nurses are the Health and Human Services (HHS) Chairpersons for the General Assembly (there is no other state in the nation with nurses serving as the HHS Chairs in both chambers)  One is a member of the HHS Committee.  We secured memberships from ALL three of the nurse legislators. 


GNA has begun to explore membership with large groups such as hospitals and schools of nursing.  We have been engaged in dialogue with several groups representing both entities since the fall 2016.  We are in the process of compiling the demonstrative value of GNA to their nursing population.   A large part of that discussion centers on member benefits.  I will highlight GNA activity on new member benefits acquired and agreements entered into from May 2016 to the current date.  


Because mentorship is essential to the development of young nurses and future nurses, GNA has also worked to rekindle its relationship with schools of nursing and the Georgia Association of Nursing Students.  While GNA does not intend to compete with GANS, we do want to work with them and support them as often as possible.  We are in the process of developing a student partnership with GNA that we will offer at $15 per year.  The students were very helpful and responsive during the 2017 Legislative Session.  We appreciate their interest and support and look forward to providing meaningful support to them in the years to come. 



Member Benefits

GNA has secured the following member benefits and agreements with the following companies:



Avis Car Rental

Mutual of Omaha

Enterprise Car Rentals

Jon Ric International Spas

Spa Sydell

L A Fitness

Dominos Pizza

Allstate Roadside Assistance

Verizon Wireless

Grand Canyon University

Snazzy Traveler

Legal Shield

IBC CPR Training




Legislative Activity


GNA offered its first legislative survey to members in July of 2016.  This purpose of this survey was to determine where the organization should focus its efforts during the 2017 Legislative Session.  We received only 66 responses. There was overwhelming support for GNA to pursue the passage of the Nurses Licensure Compact. 

I am proud to say that while I am crafting this report, the Nurse Licensure Compact is on Governor Deal’s desk for consideration.  The NLC has existed for almost 15 years and Georgia nurses have attempted to pass this bill for several years.  With the assistance of our contract lobbyists, many nurses in Georgia and several nursing students, we have finally been able to pass this legislation.  

Additionally, GNA actively supported the following legislative initiatives during the 2017 session:


-APRN Study on Barriers to Practice

-CRNAs seeking authority to administer drugs

-CVS initiative to expand the number of APRNs that a physician may enter into contract

-PTIP initiative to provide incentives to Nurse Practitioners in rural areas





Regulatory Activity


Not only did GNA attend Board of Nursing meetings, it is pertinent that we have a presence at other regulatory meetings.  There are times when actions are taken that impact nurses.  If we have no presence, we may fall prey to decisions that negatively impact the profession.   

GNA began attending the following meetings:

- Georgia Composite Medical Board

- Georgia Board of Pharmacy




In our efforts to expand nurse’s reach, GNA began working on relationships with other organizations.  We have been working tirelessly and transparently to bridge the gap with our specialty societies but it appears that these relationships will be remedied only by time and a growing trust factor. 

In consideration, GNA has developed a stronger relationship with patient advocacy groups like the


-Georgians for a Healthy Future-this group advocates for patient access to care and on issues like Medicaid expansion

-Georgia Access Coalition- this group advocates for patient access to specialty tier pharmacy products

These groups have become contributors to the Georgia Nurses Newsletter, it is critical that we work with patient advocacy groups.  


Additionally, GNA is working to strengthen existing relationships and rebuild relationships with schools of nursing.  I received several invitations to speak and visit with many of the schools of nursing and provided numerous presentations on legislative activity and advocacy and it’s important to the nursing profession.  


GNA is making efforts to meet with as many CNOs/CNEs as possible. We hope that this will translate into increased membership for the organization.  You as nurses in these facilities can help provide assistance in this area and help provide an entrée for the Association. 



Member Outreach Initiative & Events

An ongoing area of concern that I have had is the participation in GNA related activities that should be led by the state named organization.   We have begun to re-introduce ourselves on many different levels; the membership, the proposed member, hospitals, the legislature, similarly minded stakeholders and the community.  Members of the community are synonymous with the word “patients”.  Patients need to know that we exist as an Association- they often want to be the mouthpiece for those who provide outstanding care to them. 


GNA has hosted the following events:

-Meet and Greet for Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman, Renee Unterman

-Meet and Greet for House Health and Human Services Chairwoman, Sharon Cooper



-Legislative Day at the Capitol- we broke away from the traditional model because it did not foster member-legislator interaction and engagement.  During the 2017 Legislative Session, nurses convened at the capitol and received a briefing on the legislative goals for nurses (a compilation of what was deemed important by GNA and several specialty societies) and were paired with every member of the General Assembly.  We used grant money to purchase and assemble a care package for each legislator and delivered the care package along with the legislative priorities for nurses in 2017.  It was during this activity that our nurses were also tasked with asking for support for these priorities including the Nurse Licensure Compact.  We received feedback from almost every attendee and were able to use this feedback when our lobbying team requested support for nursing initiatives.  This was a huge success. 





-Pre-Legislative Workshop- this is the first event of its kind hosted by GNA.  Hosted at our Education Center, there was standing room only.  Nurse presenters and government relations professionals presented a primer on how the legislature operates, real life experiences from nurses who had experience working legislation, a case study on how to operate at the capitol and culminated in a special pinning ceremony (where a member of the legislature attended and pinned every attendee).  Ours was a diverse group of attendees which spread across generational demographics, specialty societies, experienced and inexperienced advocates.  ANA Executive Director, Dr. Debbie Hatmaker was also present and provided greetings from ANA. 



-GNA Spring Expo- GNA hosted this community event which featured more than 20 vendors and several presenters.  Though this was a non-traditional offering, GNA was able to raise some revenue and began to establish a footprint within the community.  Many attendees (including nurses) indicated that they had passed the building frequently but never knew what it was or the organization’s purpose. 





GNA attended the following events:

-Nursing Fair for Grady Hospital at Lake Lanier

-Nursing Fair at Wellstar Hospital

-CSRA Nursing Showcase in Augusta, Georgia

-North West Metro legislative breakfast.

              -The Annual GANS Conference in Athens, Ga.

              -The 4th Annual UAPRN Transitions Day

              -Alabama State Nurses Association Keynote Speaker on Advocacy








-The Nurse LinkNursing Expo- GNA participated in the first nursing expo sponsored by NurseInc.  I was invited to serve as a speaker and our outreach was acknowledged by more than 500 attendees. 

-I was also a featured speaker during the Emory Grand Rounds in January.

-I have been invited to provide the commencement address for Chamberlain School of Nursing. 



Professional Development (for nurses)

In 2015, the Georgia General Assembly mandated that LPNs and RNs earn Continuing Education Credits.  Prior to 2015, GNA offered a CE component to the nurses of Georgia and also earned the participation of nurses from other states.  In 2014, the GNA Board was asked to cease its CE offering because it was not producing the desired revenue and there was an exorbitant amount of nurses coming in from other states. CE is not only a stream of revenue but is also a service that we should be providing to the nurses of Georgia. GNA has submitted its materials for the ANCC to review and approve our efforts to re-enter the CE facet of nursing.  Our CE consultant Kathy Hammonds has organized a group that has worked tireless to prepare our materials for their review.  GNA is now awaiting its virtual visit from ANCC so that we can return to provider status.  This will be a benefit not only to our members but to the hundreds of nurses who have contacted us (since I began with the organization) who are in search of CE opportunities.  It is our goal to be able to provide nurses with this basic expectation of the profession.  Hopefully, Georgia nurses will no longer have to go to other states or CE Broker for their CE needs. 



Personal Development (for nurses)

GNA has identified the importance of nurses having the opportunity to network with each other and to learn about the new offerings of GNA.  Operating from the successful model that the Pennsylvania Nurses Association used to bolster their membership, GNA has enacted the following:


-Monthly Munch and Learn Seminars

-Young Professional Nurses Group

-Power Networking Connections



Staffing (Headquarters)

When there is new leadership, there is often a staffing turnover.  To be clear, I felt it important to continue the relationships with the staff who had served GNA for many years prior to my arrival.  Some decided that it would be best for them to pursue other opportunities and we lost some due to an organizational restructure so that the organization could run more efficiently with the resources at our disposal.  Please make note of the changes that were implemented:


-Resignation of Courtney Stancil, former Director of Communications and Governance; replaced by Tim Davis and position redefined as Director of Communications, External Coalitions and Research.


-Reorganization of staff position.  Eliminated the receptionist position and hired an RN Nurse Consultant, Ms. Natasha Davis, MBA, RN of Impact Branding Consulting, Inc to assist with communicating with nurses and outside stakeholders.  This position has been beneficial to address outside media concerns and works with our internal Director of Communications. 


-CE Consultant, Kathy Hammonds.  Kathy has assembled a volunteer group to assist GNA in its efforts to re-enter CE activity.


-Separation of former contract accountant, Nelson Pagan and hiring of new contract accountant, Octavia Conner.  Ms. Conner is the proprietor of "Say Yes to Profits".  Since entering into an agreement with her, we have identified many cost savings measures and are actively on the way to more traditional accounting practices consistent with the size and needs of our organization. 


-Our landscaper resigned after providing almost 16 years of service.  We were able to replace our landscaper with one at a significantly reduced rate.  


A significant departure from previous practices, our staff and contractors will attend each Board member and present on their area of responsibility.  This is important so that there is no room for interpretation from any information that I would provide as the CEO of the organization.  Board members will now be able to hear directly from the staff responsible for various areas of the Association. 

Additionally, our staff meets on a weekly basis with me being present to facilitate the meetings.  We not only share our weekly agendas with one another, we share concerns of staff and work on team building.  We are currently engaged in reading and discussion of the book Soup by Jon Gordon. 



GNA SPAC met and exceeded goals this year; we focused on professional development of our Clinical Associates and Clinical Examiners.  In January 2017, the Faculty participated in continuing education for the revised CPNE exam by online modules and classroom room instructions. We implemented the new CPNE exam in all clinical sites.  The faculty was complementary of this new exam because of the focus on the student’s critical thinking skills.


Since February 2017, GNA SPAC and Excelsior College has weekly teleconferences to maintain open dialog with each other about policy, procedure and updates. These meeting have been valuable in keeping the lines of communication open.


GNA SPAC administration accomplished visiting three (3) out of the four (4) Clinical Sites in Savannah and Metropolitan Atlanta. After being closed since October 2016, the Grady Hospital testing site became operational in March 2017.


We are very successful in recruiting and interviewing 19 highly quality candidates for the Clinical Examiner position.  Additionally, we implemented two (2) new articles in the GNA newsletter, SPAC Corner and Focus on SPAC Faculty.


To promote team spirit, GNA SPAC is planning Nurse Week celebration and gifts for SPAC faculty. We gave special attention to cost and maintenance of equipment and supplies and created an Equipment monitoring tool to deal effectively with equipment and supplies. . There is strong performance from the SPAC faculty; our clinical sites received written accolades from a CPNE student.




Opportunities for Member Engagement

The above references areas that your staff has been working for GNA.  There are opportunities that the general membership may use to assist in the growth and preservation for the Association.  I will provide a listing of some of the immediate opportunities:


-Attend GNA sponsored functions.  We have a calendar on our website which addresses the events that are scheduled for GNA members and potential members. 


-Invite GNA to attend your local and facility related events.  GNA would love to have a presence at your events.  This is one way to let nurses know that we support them and their efforts. 


-Help recruit new members.  GNA could present itself as an anomaly compared to other state organizations.  I have had the opportunity to serve with several other large state-named organizations and the potential of GNA dwarfs each of those groups.  Without membership, however, we will be limited as other smaller groups are that cannot entice their professionals to join. 

I have heard from many that the major challenge is that we are competing with specialty organizations.  We do not want to compete with them- we want to work together.  As such, we are exploring the idea of a special partnership rate for those who are also members of their specialty society. 


-Support the Political Action Committee.  There are more than 155,000 professional nurses in Georgia.  If each were to give just $5, we could have more than $725,000 in our PAC.  While this is not realistic, if we could get our existing membership to support the PAC, we could become more competitive in this area.  I have met with members of our Board to explore a type of “reverse dues-checkoff” initiative.  This initiative is exercised by the educators across the country that consistently has a strong PAC.  I have experience leading their PAC and I have every confidence that we can surpass what they have accomplished as a part of their PAC. 

I have conducted an analysis of other similarly situated PACs who have competing interest with nursing.  As the former director of the medical PAC, I can also confidently say that with Board and member support, we can surpass their efforts and become a major political and policy voice in Georgia.  


Thank you for all that you do.


In Solidarity,





3032 Briarcliff Road
Atlanta, GA., 30329-2655


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