Alternate Careers in the NPD World

Cindy Friis, MEd, BSN, RN-BC, is an Associate Executive Director of Clinical Affairs for the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA)


Have you ever heard the phrase, “Mom knows best?” As a young girl I told my mother, a registered nurse, that I would like to become a special education teacher.  While she entertained the notion, she told me that I was actually going to be a nurse. She said with a nursing degree, I could do anything I wanted and this included teaching.  The idea seemed plausible enough so off to college I went to pursue a degree in nursing.  Upon graduation, I found myself in the medical surgical area caring for more patients than I feel comfortable sharing in the fear that you won’t believe me if I told you. After moving into oncology, an area that I loved, I thought that I might pursue certification in the specialty, but my life’s path did not lead me there.  I later found myself working on the nutrition support team and it was in this area that I began teaching. I taught patients and their families how to care for feeding tubes and provided in-services to staff on new enteral pumps as well as PEG and gastrostomy tube care.  My dream was starting to be realized and I was teaching! 


Moving forward a few years into my career, opportunities presented themselves and I moved into Staff Development. This opened up even more doors for me and I was grateful for the chance to teach other topics and learn more about the specialty. I honed my skills, reached out to those more experienced, and absorbed all I could. My mentors suggested that I look into an organization called NNSDO, for resources and additional guidance. NNSDO proved to be an invaluable resource.  With some experience under my belt, I decided to dig even deeper and learn more. In so doing this, I earned Nursing Professional Development certification through the ANCC and a Master’s degree in Education.


After a few years, the department title of Staff Development evolved into Nursing Professional Development as did my role from Staff Development Specialist to Nursing Professional Development (NPD) Director. After a few years in the NPD Director position in a metropolitan teaching hospital, I found myself on the receiving end of an organizational restructure (AKA unemployed). With two small children at home, I decided to step back a bit and return to work on a part-time basis. I had hoped to find a role in the specialty that I had long since grown to love. A part-time position as the Director of Education for a nursing specialty organization at an Association Management company was posted in a nursing publication. Upon my husband’s encouragement, I applied for the position and was hired. That was over 13 years ago and I haven’t looked back.


My role as the Director of Education for the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) incorporated many elements of Nursing Professional Development in a very unique environment.  To say that the corporate setting is different than the healthcare setting is an understatement. As nurses, we are trained to adapt and make the best of situations - so I did. Suffice it to say, my earliest set of work colleagues had many concerns about my technical abilities, but I figured it all out with their help. Working with the volunteer members of SGNA offered me the chance to use the skills I had learned in organizational development and behavior during my Master’s program.  I had opportunities to teach, to develop programs, and to provide direction on the educational strategies for a specialty organization.  My role offered me the chance to learn more about association management as well as the specialty of gastroenterology nursing and endoscopy.


As I embark upon my 14th year at SmithBucklin, the association management corporation that manages SGNA, I still find the work very interesting as the specialty and the association industry continue to evolve. I have a larger role within the organization and work on different projects as well as education.  The role continues to challenge me and I welcome new opportunities to grow. But overall, it is about the people. The privilege to work with our dedicated and talented staff team and our amazing group of committed volunteers is truly the best part of the job.   


So while I haven’t quite ended up where I originally thought I would, I have to say that my mom was right. Nursing has opened up doors that I didn’t even know existed and for that, I am grateful. The next time I speak with mom, I’ll be sure to share that thought with her. 

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Cindy and her mother arriving at an airport in the Philippines

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