Early beginnings

Dr Kit Chesla DNSc RN FAAN

The development of the International Family Nursing Association (IFNA) is a remarkable story of courage and commitment by a dedicated group of international nurses who were united by a goal to improve the health and wellbeing of families around the globe. My name is Dr. Kit Chesla and I am a Professor Emerita at University of California, San Francisco, Department of Family Health Care Nursing. I was a steering committee member who helped with the early formation of IFNA as a professional organisation (along with. Drs. Bell, Curry & Knafl).

As an organisation, IFNA developed out of a history of International Family Nursing Conferences that had been conducted every 2-3 years for a decade. These meetings brought together informal networks of family nurses, hosted by universities in various countries including Canada, Chile, Japan, Thailand and the USA. We met to discuss family research, interventions and policy, as well as to share strategies for teaching family nursing to undergraduate and graduate nurses. Our work was thoughtful, and expansive. It was thrilling to talk with nurses from distant universities or countries about how their research was evolving, how they were guiding their family curricula, and about structural approaches for teaching clinical practice with families. But except at conferences, we lacked a consistent place to communicate. And we needed a record of ongoing scholarship, creativity and professional activity. As well, the complexity and financial cost of hosting an international conference proved difficult for informal family nursing groups in many countries. We needed to get organised!

In 2009, participants at the ninth International Family Nursing Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, voted to establish IFNA as a formal organisation. For me, the moment felt both ‘right’ and risky. It felt as if we were building something completely new out of thin air. And at the same time, it felt like the culmination of years of informal, hard work to share the burgeoning knowledge for family nursing. Led by IFNA’s first President, Dr. Marcia Van Riper, the newly elected Board of Directors enthusiastically addressed the essential tasks of a new organisation: drafting a mission statement, strategic plan and basic structure of the organisation. Throughout, the beliefs, wishes and dreams of family nurses were solicited, so that the board might incorporate those ideas into the structure IFNA and address what really mattered to its members. Additionally, the Board contracted with Kassalen Meetings and Events to serve as IFNA’s management organisation; They provided invaluable advice and support on both the organisational issues and the conference.

Today, with IFNA a mere decade old, the energy and accomplishments of this organisation are truly impressive. (https://internationalfamilynursing.org) Drawing on expertise of members from around the world, committee work has expanded, initiatives have grown, professional position statements have been carefully drafted and agreed upon, and the scholarship has continued to blossom. Success is undoubtedly strengthened by combining the efforts of clinicians, researchers and educators into a joint mission. And the spirit of the early work remains, with IFNA providing a friendly, engaging and intriguing home where family nurses can find their ‘tribe’ and new members are exceedingly welcome.

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