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RCNA and The College of Nursing to merge

College members have voted in favour of a single national professional body, Linda Belardi reports.

Royal College of Nursing Australia and the College of Nursing are to merge, forming what will be Australia’s largest peak professional body for nurses.

At an extraordinary general meeting held simultaneously in Melbourne and Sydney last night, well over 75 per cent of members voted in favour of the united entity, which will be established on July 1 next year, following a six-month transition period.

RCNA CEO, Debra Cerasa, said the united body would strengthen the professional voice of nursing and help meet the challenge of declining professional membership.

“Both the College of Nursing and RCNA represent diverse professional aspects of nursing and as a strengthened entity it will enhance further the ability to have the voice of nursing heard. It is a historic moment for nursing that these two organisations which have worked side by side for 62 years will now become one,” she told Nursing Review.

Board directors of both colleges voted unanimously in support of a merger on July 1, following a process of legal and financial due diligence, and have been canvassing the views of members in the led up to the November 30 vote.

The College of Nursing Chief Executive, Tracey Osmond, said the new college would amalgamate the postgraduate education services of the College of Nursing with the policy and lobbying functions of the RCNA.

“The merger represents a fruitful marriage of the strengths of both organisations, which are very complementary,” said Osmond. Currently the two colleges only share 357 members.

Cerasa said the new college would expand and improve services and help reduce the college’s reliance on membership as a source of income. “With the ongoing challenge of recruiting and retaining membership, member-based associations have had to be much more business-savvy than they have been in the past,” she said.

A planned merger of the two national not-for-profits in 2000 was unsuccessful but regained momentum in the last three years. In September 2008, the RCNA and the College of Nursing signed a memorandum of cooperation to increase collaboration between the two colleges, which was renewed in 2010.

The two boards resurrected talks of a single entity in June last year. Osmond said the mission and strategic visions of the two organisations were well-aligned.

A transitional implementation committee will now be set up to manage the unification process until the two colleges formally roll into one on July 1 2012. Until then, the two colleges will continue to operate as independent colleges.

Before the unification date, a transitional board of directors made up of six directors from the RCNA and six from the College of Nursing will settle on the new college’s name, logo and branding and appoint a new CEO.

The college’s national office will continue to be based in Canberra for political access and lobbying; while the College of Nursing’s Sydney facility will remain a base for the new entity’s education and professional development activities.

“The goal of the new organisation will still be about being the peak professional organisation representing nursing. It will be about developing and delivering best practice in continuing professional development. We envisage a unified college will be an expansion and an opportunity to continue to improve on what we’re already doing,” said Cerasa.

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