American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

“The Campbell & Company Executive Search team took the time to understand our work style, our expectations, and our organizational practices. They seemed to get us right away. Ultimately, this led us to the right people.” 

- Wanda Wilson, Executive Director / CEO, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA)

About American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA)

The staff of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) help ensure that safe, quality anesthesia standards are practiced by its 44,000 members. The AANA serves not only as a professional organization but also as an information hub, which has become a critical part of its mission given the rapidly changing healthcare industry. Founded in 1931, the organization is located in Park Ridge, Illinois and advocates for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and student registered nurse anesthetists nationwide. It promotes education, patient safety, and practice excellence for the profession.

The Challenge

During a two-year period beginning in late 2011, the AANA found itself with a string of key staff openings. These included Director of Development & Marketing, Senior Director of Professional Practice, COO, Senior Director of Finance, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications, and Senior Director of Educational and Professional Development. Three of these were filling existing vacancies, but growth within the organization had created three new opportunities. These new positions posed a particular challenge for the AANA’s limited administrative resources.

Of additional concern was the critical nature of the positions, which demanded a niche set of skills and background. The AANA was firm in its desire for candidates who had experience in healthcare, even for placement in non-technical positions like finance and marketing. Additionally, the organization was migrating critical software systems, and it wanted expertise in that as well.

The Board turned to Campbell & Company to bring structure and definition to this overwhelming recruitment process. 

The Approach

With this assignment, the Campbell & Company Executive Search team found itself in a unique situation. Many emerging skills were beyond the team’s usual networks, requiring us to respond to the project with a new approach. We first conducted in-depth research into the nurse anesthetist profession to better understand the field. Our findings, which identified how corporate and/or academic leadership could be translated into healthcare association leadership, helped formulate our search.

Wanda Wilson, AANA Executive Director and CEO, saw immediate value in this preparatory work. “As we peeled back the layers, it became clear that we were struggling with several positions that required very specific critical skill sets,” she recalled. “By understanding upfront the challenges of our industry, Campbell & Company was able to quickly develop profiles that met our current and future needs.” 

The Results

Great care was taken to develop job definitions that would set AANA up for its long-term strategies. Reporting structures needed to be defined. Job descriptions needed to be written. Competitive benefits packages needed to be designed. In the case of the COO, that meant presenting three different types of COO models to AANA’s leadership. In the end, a hybrid position was designed and filled.

Since Wanda was relatively new to the association leadership position herself, she also relied on the team’s depth of experience to guide her through the process. “It was comforting to hear how other Executive Directors had approached this challenge.” This type of one-on-one guidance not only eased concerns but also helped focus the search and eventually enabled consensus and placed new, capable leaders onto the executive team.