Are you retired or approaching retirement? Sigma needs you!

By Karen A. Grigsby |

You have so much to contribute.

Are you the one in five of us who is retired or approaching retirement? Sigma needs you!

How can Sigma better engage its members who are retired or approaching retirement? That’s the question the organization’s Retired Members Task Force set out to answer. 

Karen A. GrigsbyThe mission of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma) is to advance world health and celebrate nursing excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service. Our vision is to be the global organization of choice for nursing.

In reviewing membership statistics, Sigma’s leadership recognized that the number of older retired members will likely increase in the near future. At present, more than 16,000 active members are 61 or older. In other words, they are retired or approaching retirement.

Recognizing that members who are retired or nearing retirement have much to contribute to the work of Sigma, the board of directors created a task force to come up with recommendations for how the organization and its chapters can better engage these valuable people. Unquestionably, they have the knowledge, experience, energy, and perspectives needed to contribute significantly at chapter, regional, and global levels. Members of the Retired Members Task Force represent Canada, Kenya, Mexico, and the United States. All are retired or nearing retirement and come from academic and clinical settings.

What’s YOUR story?
As this group began its work in August 2018, we disclosed personal experiences about being retired and making the decision to retire. Additionally, we shared stories heard from others considering retirement. Examples included:

  • “I’m thinking about retirement, but I’m not sure about the right time. I enjoy my work but want time to explore other interests, such as traveling.”
  • “I have a lot of knowledge and experience I’d love to share, but will others be interested in listening to me? Will they still invite me to participate in professional activities after I’m retired?”
  • “I want to stay in touch with other nurses after retirement and have a forum where we share thoughts about this phase of life and, as a nurse, how to make these years more fulfilling.”

We brainstormed. We reviewed membership data. And we formulated ideas about how to best utilize the perspectives and insights that these members—roughly one-fifth of our membership—possess. Our suggestions included creating a community of interest on The Circle where members can share questions and explore issues; providing information about how to prepare for retirement; utilizing the Volunteer Interest Profile or other networking mechanisms to inform present and soon-to-become retirees about ways to stay involved in Sigma; and helping chapters be more effective in engaging retired members in local activities.

Ongoing and sustainable
As we continued our discussions, we talked about how to make serving the needs of retired members an ongoing, sustainable effort of Sigma. Our first recommendation was to inaugurate a chapter board position—Retired Member Ambassador—to be filled by a chapter member who is retired. As the title suggests, the holder of the office would facilitate connection among retired members, other active chapter members, and potential members with the goal of engaging retired and soon-to-be-retired members in current and future chapter activities more effectively.

This individual would work with chapter members who are retired or nearing retirement to identify and promote programs that target their interests, mentor new leaders and new members as requested, and promote the chapter in community organizations where nurses work. Ideally, the person appointed to this position would be a Sigma member who has worked at chapter, regional, or international levels; understands Sigma operations; and is acquainted with the community in which the chapter is located.

We want to hear from YOU!
There are many ways to engage retired Sigma members. To flesh out those possibilities more completely, the Retired Member Task Force proposed to Sigma’s board of directors that a session be offered at the 2019 Biennial Convention that provides members, including chapter leaders, the opportunity to interact with task force members to share ideas, opinions, and recommendations. That proposal has been accepted, so we invite those who attend the convention to come to this presentation and participate. Your involvement in determining how to meet the needs of Sigma members who are planning to retire or are already retired will be greatly appreciated.

Sigma is a vital organization that contributes in so many ways to the advancement of world health through leadership, scholarship, and service. As members consider or enter retirement, Sigma has much to gain from the wisdom and experience they bring to our organization. We cannot afford to ignore the value of retired members who want to continue serving Sigma’s mission. Many of these members cannot envision a life that doesn’t include the rich professional connections they have made through their involvement with the organization over the years. Intentionally focusing on the needs of this group of members and the value they add to Sigma can only be viewed as a win-win situation! RNL

Karen A. Grigsby, PhD, RN, emeritus associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing, chairs Sigma’s Retired Member Task Force.

In addition to Grigsby, the following people constitute the Retired Member Task Force: Mary Graiver, MSN, RN; Bette Idemoto, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, CCRN; Connie Miller, PhD, RN, CNE; Susan Neville, PhD, RN, CDP, CADDCT, AACN Wharton Fellow; Joanne Olson, PhD, RN; Alyce Schultz, PhD, RN, FAAN; Lynnette Leeseberg Stamler, PhD, DLitt, RN, FAAN; Kathleen Taylor, MPH, MN, CSN, RN; Esther Gallegos, PhD, RN, FAAN; Naomi Mutea, DNP, RN; and Constance M. Baker, EdD, RN.

Editor’s note: Special session C03 “Engaging and retaining Sigma’s retired members” is scheduled for Sunday, 17 November, 10:45 to 11:30 a.m., during the 45th Biennial Convention in Washington, D.C. Room location is National Harbor 6, Level 3.

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