Corinne MacEgan, President of the ANAC

Profiles in Nursing

Corinne MacEgan, President of the ANAC

She approached her leadership role

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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She may have slowed down a bit lately — being constantly tethered to oxygen while awaiting treatment for a congenital heart defect will do that — but Corinne MacEgan is certainly not out. She remains actively engaged as the president of the American Nurses AssociationCalifornia (ANAC).

Path to Leadership

MacEgan does not see herself as a natural leader. In fact, she says she was quite shy even as a nursing student at San Diego State University (SDSU).

Her first tentative steps down the leadership path came during elections for the SDSU chapter of the California Nursing Students’ Association. Running for office wasn’t even her idea; a fellow student urged her to run from the floor.

Although MacEgan found it intimidating to speak in front of a large group, she did it anyway. Her campaign speech didn’t get her elected, but it gave her the confidence to run again the next year, when she was elected communications director. (Who says we can’t overcome our weaknesses — or learn from our failures?)

MacEgan’s path to the presidency of ANAC was similarly tentative. When asked to run for a statewide position in 2015, she opted for the vice-presidency, which she considered the most appealing and most comfortable role. To her surprise, she won against considerable odds.

The untimely death of ANAC President Dianne S. Moore, RN, MN, Ph.D., MPH, CNM, moved MacEgan into the top role — in her own words, “unprepared, but open to learn.”

The Legislative Jungle

Even given the restrictions imposed by her current health problems, which limit her ability to travel, MacEgan has made a lot of progress in her term as ANAC president. She says there has been great collaboration with the national organization, the ANA, although the parent group also allows each state affiliate considerable independence.

MacEgan finds the complexity of the behind-the-scenes action engrossing, particularly the challenges involved in passing or opposing legislation, which she says is exciting, “but … also very time-consuming and requires a tremendous amount of work.”

Even nurses who regularly follow important legislation may not realize how much time and energy a statewide professional organization puts into reviewing bills, monitoring their progress and visiting legislators. It’s not just one or two measures: In the current session of the California Assembly, ANAC is monitoring 40 bills — in the Senate, another 18.

A leading priority for both the ANAC and the national organization is the ongoing fight to allow nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians. California is one of more than two dozen states that still refuse to allow NP autonomy.

The state organization also works with international nursing groups and recently hosted a group from Scotland.

Presidential Goals

What other goals does MacEgan have for her term? Among other things, she would like to mend the rift between ANAC and the California Nurses Association (CNA). The two groups split in 1995 — the CNA is now affiliated with the labor union National Nurses United — but continue to have many common interests.

Increasing ANAC membership is another priority. Of the more than 400,000 registered nurses in the state, only about 5,000 are ANAC members. Retention rates are low and the organization is still trying to pinpoint why. Part of the problem, MacEgan says, is that “people, including members, don’t know what we’re doing.”

With the help of Membership Director Phillip Bautista, RN, BSN, PHN, who shares with MacEgan an interest in social media, MacEgan hopes to improve membership numbers and engagement. Strategies include a just-launched weekly e-blast to all members, the quarterly online newsletter and a more targeted use of all the group’s social media accounts.

MacEgan hopes to help other California nurses recognize something that has impressed her in her work with professional organizations: the degree of influence nurses can have on the political process.

“I had no idea — it just blew my mind that we could have a voice in this,” she says.

Next Steps

On a personal level, MacEgan is also surging forward. In June, she earned her master’s degree in nursing education from the University of Phoenix — just four years after graduating from her BSN program at SDSU. She hopes to return to work soon and has applied for a nurse educator position on her oncology floor at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego.

It would be a particularly fitting role for MacEgan, who never intended to be a nurse, but made the switch after watching the truly compassionate care her grandmother and her entire family received from hospice during her grandmother’s last weeks. MacEgan leaned in to nursing leadership — and she is not looking back.

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