by Mark McGowan
After only five years of membership in the National Gerontological Nursing Association, Judith Hertz wasn’t sure if she had invested enough time to run for president of the organization.
“But as I thought about it,” said Hertz, an associate professor in the NIU School of Nursing and Health Studies, “I realized I have lengthy experience in gerontological nursing, so I have a knowledge base. I’ve been very involved in a lot of professional organizations. I’ve held leadership positions. I thought maybe I could do it.”
She wasn’t alone in that thinking.
Hertz will become president of the Pensacola, Fla.-based group next month at its annual meeting in Orlando, ending a year’s time as president-elect. She will serve a two-year term as president and remain on the board as past-president for the year after that.
Boasting approximately 1,700 members, the association strives to improve the quality of nursing care for older adults.
Its goals are to enhance high-quality health care and outcomes, to ensure that older adults have access to a well-prepared work force of nurses, to recognize gerontological nurses for their expertise and to build a reputation as a source of expert knowledge.
Members are nurses who provide care to older adults in long-term, acute and community care settings. They are staff nurses, clinical nurse specialists, managers, administrators, clinical and academic educators, researchers and nurse practitioners.
“What I’ve learned in the last year as president-elect while I’ve been mentored into this presidential role is that we are in demand. There is not a week that goes by that some national organization, person or entity is asking us for help and to share our expertise,” Hertz said.
“This is coming from some of the major federal organizations, such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” she added. “What’s happening is that all these initiatives are coming forward as the population ages, and there’s a realization that perhaps they should have input from nurses who know something about caring for older adults.”
NGNA provides specialized continuing education activities for members, sponsors the most widely circulated gerontological nursing journal containing the latest information on the nursing care of older adults and offers networking opportunities and information on its Web site.
It also funds scholarships and research grant programs, publishes a newsletter on current issues and the organization’s activities and endorses legislation and policy initiatives that affect the health care of older adults and their caregivers.
Hertz is among the first class of the state’s new Nurse Educator Fellowship Program meant to ensure the retention of well-qualified nursing educators.
In 2004, she and colleague Donna Munroe received a $200,000 grant from the Retirement Research Foundation of Chicago to help undergraduate nursing students learn more about caring for the aging population.
Two years earlier, Hertz was named a 2002-2004 John A. Hartford Foundation Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity Post-Doctoral Scholar.
Her interest in gerontological nursing stems from a close relationship with her maternal grandparents when she was young.
“I grew up appreciating grandparents – older adults – and then I became a nurse,” she said.
“When I went back to work on my bachelor’s degree at the University of San Diego, almost every clinical learning experience I had was with older adults in some way, shape or form. That’s when I started realizing this was something I love,” she added. “I love working with older people. When I moved through master’s and doctoral education, I continued to focus on the care of older adults. I’ve been interested in this for well over 25 years.”
As president of NGNA, Hertz said she will serve as the official representative of the group and the point person when inquiries are received. She also will lead the eight-member board of directors, bring forward issues and opportunities and then carry out the board’s decisions.
She also expects to make a unique contribution. “Because of my background as an educator, and my understanding of nursing students, I hope to attract nursing students into the gerontological field,” she said.
Meanwhile, Hertz hopes her students in NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences take advantage of the close-up exposure to a national organization.
“I would also like them to benefit financially,” she said. “For the last four years, I’ve been encouraging them to apply for the $1,500 scholarship NGNA offers. So far, I’ve had no takers.”
For more information, visit www.ngna.org.