Sigma charters Ireland chapter: Ceremony livestreamed

By Jennifer L. Hoffman | 11/28/2018

Omega Epsilon at-Large Chapter is born.

Sigma charters Ireland chapter

Five years after initial discussions, Omega Epsilon at-Large Chapter becomes Sigma’s first in Ireland and seventh in the European region.

Five years after four nurse leaders attending an international nursing editors’ conference in Ireland agreed that Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma) should have a chapter in that country, Omega Epsilon at-Large Chapter will be officially chartered. On Thursday, 29 November 2018, the chapter became Sigma’s first in Ireland and its seventh in the European region. The chartering ceremony was livestreamed at 5 p.m. Ireland time. Click here to view. 

In February 2014, six months after Drs. Patricia Yoder-Wise, Karren Kowalski, Nicola Cornally, and Elizabeth Weathers first discussed the benefits of establishing a Sigma chapter in Ireland, a steering committee was formed and the process set in motion. One year later, members of the steering committee were elected to the future chapter’s first board of directors, and the developing honor society, known as the SIA Honor Society of Nursing and Midwifery Ireland (SIA Society), began completing requisite steps for achieving Sigma chapter status. One of those steps—the SIA Society’s first member induction—took place in November 2016. 

Induction ceremonyAnother important step was securing financial backing. That support came from three universities—University College Cork, Ireland (UCC); Institute of Technology, Tralee (ITT); and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)—and the Nursing and Midwifery Planning and Development Unit Cork/Kerry (NMPDU). Further progress was made when leaders of the new society presented at the Nursing and Midwifery Values in Practice Conference in Dublin, Ireland, in May 2017 and Sigma’s biennial convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, in October of that year. At the latter event, SIA Society President Elizabeth Weathers, PhD, RGN, and Vice-President Nicola Cornally, PhD, RGN, informed Sigma members about the development of the SIA Society and its goal to become an official Sigma at-large chapter by the end of 2018. That goal becomes reality on Thursday, 29 November.

Weathers wasn’t a member of Sigma in 2013 when she expressed her desire for a chapter, but when the gavel comes down this month and the new chapter is officially chartered, Weathers will be its first president, a position she has held throughout the SIA Society’s entire development. Most of the founding members of the society’s board of directors have remained in office since 2015, although some have moved to other geographic areas to take up new professional assignments. Despite these relocations, the society’s goal to become a Sigma chapter has continued to progress, an achievement attributable to the unwavering commitment of the SIA Society’s board of directors and their belief in the importance of establishing a Sigma chapter in Ireland.

As part of the society’s development, members of the board have held information sessions at several nursing and midwifery conferences across Ireland. They have also spoken about the society at various seminars and information sessions. At every available opportunity, the board has distributed surveys to current and potential members to ascertain their professional backgrounds and associated needs.

To provide RNL readers additional information about the new chapter, James Mattson, editor of Reflections on Nursing Leadership, and I prepared questions, shown in bold, for the board of directors. Claire O’Gorman, chair of the new chapter’s Public Relations Committee, synthesized board members’ individual responses into the following answers.

The name of the nursing honor society in Ireland that will be chartered as Sigma’s Omega Epsilon at-Large Chapter was SIA Honor Society of Nursing and Midwifery Ireland. What does SIA stand for?

Sia is the name of the ancient Egyptian god of knowledge. The acronym SIA captures the goal of the society, which is to celebrate scholarship, innovation, and achievement in nursing and midwifery.

Why did the founding board of directors of SIA Society think it was important to establish a Sigma chapter in Ireland?

Members of the board, recognizing that no chapter of Sigma existed in Ireland, were keen to establish one as it would provide a forum for recognizing and celebrating Irish nursing and midwifery achievements across clinical practice, policy, and academic settings. By nurturing a culture of support and solidarity within the nursing and midwifery professions, the chapter would encourage preservation of staff morale, promote leadership development, and advance health research and policy in the Irish Health Service. Such a culture would build a strong foundation for forging links between clinical practice, policy, and academic organizations, thereby promoting future development of the profession.

Becoming part of Sigma—one of the largest and most successful nursing organizations in the world—gives Irish nurses and midwives access to professional supports, enabling them to transcend boundaries and have a voice in the national and international communities of their peers, all of whom are working toward the goal of improving health care through knowledge, scholarship, and service.  

What were the top accomplishments of SIA Society?

There were many accomplishments during its development. In the main, they included the teamwork and commitment demonstrated by all board members as they worked to reach the society’s goals by developing a platform for collaboration, connectivity, and celebration of achievement across the nursing and midwifery profession in Ireland.

This was important as there has tended to be a disconnect, at times, between the academic, practice, and policy settings. By attracting nurse leaders from each of these settings and attaining a diverse membership, SIA Society has helped overcome these disconnects. In addition, by hosting high-quality master classes and induction ceremonies, SIA Society has provided a forum not only for sharing knowledge and expertise but also for linking members and providing networking opportunities.

What are the goals of Omega Epsilon at-Large Chapter?

We want to continue growing our membership base and build on the foundation laid by SIA Society in promoting Sigma’s vision to advance healthcare. These goals will be achieved by fostering a culture of support and solidarity among our members; encouraging connectivity across clinical practice, policy, and academic settings; and promoting engagement with scholarship and translational research. Furthermore, the chapter will represent Irish nurses and midwives at European and international levels, thus providing a voice for Irish nursing and midwifery when discussing healthcare issues on the global stage.

Tell us about nursing in Ireland. What are the unique challenges? How will having a Sigma chapter help address those challenges?

Challenges faced by nurses and midwives in Ireland are similar to those faced by nurses and midwives across the globe. They include an aging population, increased complexity of clinical presentations, and patients with multiple co-morbidities. To develop solutions to these and other challenges and to meet patient and service needs, the “glocal” concept of thinking globally and acting locally will be central to the vision of Omega Epsilon at-Large Chapter.

The current model of healthcare in Ireland is hospital-centric, which leads to problems in terms of ease of access, patient flow, discharge, and continuity of care. Together with colleagues from other disciplines, nurses and midwives are trying to find solutions to these problems. A new model of healthcare—Sláintecare—proposes that patients be able to access healthcare at the lowest level of complexity required and as close to home as possible. This presents the challenge of turning our hospital-centric model into a community-based model.

Nurses and midwives will have key contributory roles in implementing this process. Educational changes will need to be made to better prepare nurses and midwives with the knowledge and skills required to work across boundaries. To develop and enable this process, nursing and midwifery leaders will need to promote cultural change. To meet population needs across a variety of settings, clinical practice will provide opportunities for nurses and midwives to expand and deliver their skillsets to enable them to work at specialist and advanced levels.

Sigma charters Ireland chapter

To better tackle challenges faced by nursing and midwifery in Ireland, Omega Epsilon at-Large will use “glocal” thinking and draw on experiences of other Sigma chapters around the world. It will actively seek out opportunities to respond to Sigma President Beth Tigges’ call to action to “Connect, Collaborate, and Catalyze.” Another initiative the chapter has already begun to pursue is Nursing Now, a global campaign run in collaboration with the International Council of Nurses and the World Health Organization.  

What are two or three of the most important things to keep in mind when starting a nursing honor society? What helps expedite the process?

Strong leadership and tenacity are fundamental to achieving the vision of a developing honor society and to maintain momentum throughout the process of driving the initiative forward. Ensuring that the directors understand what Sigma has to offer and how it can contribute to the local nursing community is also vital to achieving the goals and objectives of the developing society.

Effective communication pathways and role clarification, together with clear timelines, provide focus and help ensure that the board of the developing society adheres to the society’s vision as it applies for chapter status. Strong support from key stakeholders was a key element in starting our society. For us, this support included three academic institutions, two clinical practices, and a nursing and midwifery planning and development unit that is part of the Irish Health Service. Harnessing this support from the beginning immediately enlarged the pool of potential members and embedded in our society the notion of connectivity across academic, policy, and clinical practice settings.

Good planning is essential. Critical to the process is following Sigma chapter development guidelines closely as they provide clear, step-by-step information. For us, taking time to prepare during the early developmental stages of the society helped advance progression at the end. With regard to promotion and membership application processing, we were very fortunate—and grateful—to receive information and communication technology (ICT) support for our SIA website and online application system from one of the supporting academic institutions. Early setup and testing of ICT systems for online membership applications and payment mechanisms are very helpful in streamlining processes for when they go live. Finally, engaging early with chapter development people at Sigma headquarters and, if possible, meeting with them in person help promote a strong working relationship.

If an established nursing honor society asked for advice in applying for Sigma chapter status, how would you respond?

It is essential to have a team of committed, hardworking people with strong leadership skills at the helm that understands the goals and vision of the developing society as well as Sigma. Planning for and supporting induction of undergraduate nurses and midwives at the outset help ensure that a focus on membership becomes the norm for future leaders and innovators. Seeking support from neighboring chapters and honor societies is also advisable.

The leadership of Omega Epsilon at-Large Chapter is very happy to provide assistance and support to other developing honor societies. Sigma is about collaboration and nurses helping nurses. It is important that leaders of developing societies keep a clear vision and precise goals in mind when applying for chapter status. They should reach out to their liaison connections at Sigma headquarters and work closely with them to complete the application. The regional committee or coordinator is another excellent source of support and guidance. Connect early and effectively with Sigma staff members and attend a biennial convention to meet key leaders and gain support from the broader community.

Board of directors, Omega Epsilon at-Large Chapter: Elizabeth Weathers, president (Royal College of Surgeons Bahrain); Nicola Cornally, vice president (UCC); Catherine Buckley, secretary (St. Luke’s Northridge House Education Centre); Dawn Farrell, treasurer (ITT); Alice Coffey, chair of the Governance Committee (University of Limerick); Suzanne Denieffe, member of the Governance Committee (WIT); Gerardina Harnett, member of the Governance Committee (WIT); Ruth Lernihan, chair of the Activities/Research Committee (South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital); Claire O’Gorman, chair of the Public Relations Committee (WIT); Lisa Herrity, member of the Public Relations Committee (ITT); Fiona Willis, chair of the Leadership Succession Committee (NMPDU); and Agnes Sheehy, chair of the Awards/Philanthropy Committee (ITT). RNL

Acknowledgments: The following individuals were instrumental in developing the SIA Honor Society of Nursing and Midwifery Ireland: Elizabeth Weathers, Nicola Cornally, Dawn Farrell, Gerardina Harnett, Alice Coffey, Suzanne Denieffe, Agnes Sheehy, Catherine Buckley, Michelle Clifford, Lisa Herrity, Ruth Lernihan, Claire O’Gorman, Fiona Willis, Aoife Lane, Carmel Buckley, Eileen Savage, Jenny Hoffman, Rebecca Schafer, and all of the SIA Society members.

The SIA Society also wishes to acknowledge the support of the following people: Karren Kowalski, Patricia Yoder-Wise, John Higgins, John Wells, William Evans, Patrick Cotter, Sarah McCloskey, Thóra Hafsteinsdóttir, Elizabeth Rosser, Joy Merrell, and Geraldine McCarthy.

Jennifer “Jenny” L. Hoffman is Sigma’s manager of chapter development.

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