Reprinted with permission from SmithBucklin. The article originally appeared in the 2018 edition of Circuit, which offers 20 articles on key trends, issues and development that will impact associations in the coming year.

The educational needs of association members are always evolving in every industry and profession, but especially in those where members need to earn and maintain certifications. As two specialty nursing associations experienced first-hand, completing a thorough education needs assessment can ensure an association’s education is relevant and useful, while also providing other far-reaching benefits.

game changer

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The typical assessment begins with a short survey sent to an organization’s entire membership about what education would benefit members on the job and what formats are most accessible. The survey should also ask about current educational products and offerings, as well as competitor offerings of which they are aware. Based on a thorough analysis of the results – with special consideration given to the specific requirements and regulations of the industry or profession – new products and services are identified, and some existing offerings are retired or modified.

Based on the results of such an assessment, the Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN) – an organization dedicated to advancing the specialty of pediatric nursing through excellence in education, research, and practice – developed a three-year strategic plan with a focus on education. SPN’s first step was to fulfill the requirements to become an accredited provider of continuing nursing education through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. That achievement enabled SPN to craft new opportunities for pediatric nurses to earn continuing nursing education (CNE) contact hours, which are required for their certification as pediatric nurses. SPN developed an online education center that provides easy access to education and assists members in tracking their earned contact hours.

Thanks to these new offerings, SPN experienced a 33 percent increase in membership renewals over a two-year period and a 56 percent increase in conference attendees over a three-year period. In that same timeframe, its new education offerings have led to an improvement in clinical performance as well, with 62 percent of SPN education participants reporting actual changes in on-the-job practices due to the education provided.

Another example is the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) – an organization that advances the specialty practice of nursing professional development for the enhancement of healthcare outcomes. Since beginning its needs assessment in 2013, ANPD’s resulting efforts have helped achieve a 32 percent increase in membership to date. During the same period, ANPD’s revenues more than doubled from $1.3 million to $2.2 million, and it quadrupled its offerings for members to earn CNE contact hours. The expanded educational initiatives that made this possible include 10 free webinars annually, an online bookstore, and the NPD Quick Guide series – a go-to guide for executing educational activities. ANPD also developed the Frontline Nurse Leader curriculum, an online program that provides the bedside registered nurse with leadership knowledge to function effectively in a charge nurse position. The curriculum is a significant revenue source for ANPD.

While these examples are nursing specific, careful assessment and analysis of members’ needs and wants will benefit associations in every industry and profession. For example, the Vacation Rental Management Association – a professional trade association that serves the vacation rental property management and hospitality industries – is also undertaking a thorough education assessment for its members. So when trying to understand the optimal educational offerings for an association membership, don’t guess. Assess!

Completing a thorough education needs assessment can ensure an association’s education is relevant and useful.

Posted by Jannat Choudhury

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