The new executive director of the American Nurses Association will be looking at a full plate when he assumes his job Jan. 1.
David Hennage, an experienced association leader, joins an organization struggling with financial problems and working to resolve conflicts in its internal structure.
Hennage, 57, is the first male and non-nurse to be appointed to the position.
Trained as a physicist, Hennage was executive director of the Optical Society of America from 1993 to 1997. He was previously chief financial officer of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and chief operations officer at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Early in his career he cofounded a nurse practitioner program at Indiana University Northwest. In the mid-1970s he ran the Model Cities family health center in Gary, Ind.
ANA President Beverly Malone described Hennage as a "champion of change, using his well-honed business skills to lead organizations in new directions that are strategically sound and that strengthen the core mission of the organization."
He will need those skills to turn around the nation's largest nurses trade group.
The Washington-based ANA has 200 staff members and a $25 million annual budget.
But it is facing a projected $14 million deficit in fiscal 1999, which could lead to staff and programming reductions in the near future, association leaders told staff on Oct. 20. Programming cuts have trimmed that projected deficit to $5.8 million.
Decisions on layoffs and further budget cuts will be made at a December board of directors meeting.
The ANA's house union, the Association Staff Union, has protested the planned job cuts and is challenging the deficit projections. Ironically, an organization that typically represents nurses in conflict with hospital managers is now fighting its own union workers.
Hennage said he was aware of the association's financial problems but has little to say about them right now. To a certain degree, the association is paying the financial price for some of the changes and pressures buffeting the nursing profession, he said.
But he also sees opportunities. "If the ANA can provide leadership and information and support for the state nurses associations, and to the nurses, I think nurses will see a value in it-a greater value than it's had in the past," Hennage said. "I think there are opportunities to serve the community. That's what I will be focusing on. The finances will follow."
Observers of the ANA say it is hobbled by its federated structure. The ANA's membership comprises state nurses associations, not individual nurses. Individual nurses join the state associations, which then contribute revenue to the national association.
"If the state nurses associations are doing well and their membership is growing, the ANA is doing well," Hennage said. One of the first things he wants to do is "provide more information to the constituent state nursing associations. . . on a more current basis while it's going on at the ANA."
He declined to comment on the federation issue but said the ANA, its constituent assembly and several components of the nursing community are looking at that issue now.
Not least among his challenges is his status as the first male and non-nurse to be executive director. "I certainly come humbled by the amount I have to learn," he said. "I think the search committee felt I could perhaps provide a balance and some knowledge and insights and energy that might help the organization reach higher levels."