In 1985, Suzanne Herbst, RN, MA, was working as a home infusion clinician in San Francisco, caring for patients and friends with AIDS. She realized that clinicians' knowledge of vascular access and vascular access devices (VADs) varied widely with some knowing very little. She noted that this lack of knowledge also applied to healthcare institutions and consumers. Important issues such as consumer education, care and maintenance procedures, catheter-related complications and their management were rife with incomplete and inconsistent information. The unknowns, the discrepancies, and the misunderstandings about these critical lifelines likely led to serious problems. Devices were inserted by healthcare professionals and used, and maintained clinicians, and consumers with little or no up-to-date information.
In June of 1985, Herbst sent a letter to 12 colleagues in the San Francisco Bay Area…colleagues whom she believed shared the same thoughts and concerns about VADs. She proposed the development of a multidisciplinary network to address the complexities of VADs and their insertion, use, care, and maintenance. Issues ranging from research and development of VADs, to educating the health care community, to informing the patient community were on her agenda. Her focus was on the best possible outcomes for infusion therapy and on excellence in the new specialty of vascular access.
Fifteen people attended the first brainstorming meeting. Those that attended had diverse backgrounds in hospitals, home care, the medical device industry, nursing, pharmacy and the research and development community. Also in attendance were patient advocates. After considerable discussion, it was unanimously agreed to develop a committee which was eventually called the Bay Area Vascular Access Committee (BAVAC). Its primary goal was to "establish a collaborative effort through standardization of education, training, and research and development that would benefit consumers and healthcare professionals alike".
The first few years were spent identifying the local needs, developing expertise, increasing membership, creating group/community credibility and surveying current practices. Four task forces were established: tunneled catheters, implanted ports, percutaneously inserted central catheters, and consumer education. These groups were tasked to develop collaborative policies and procedures, along with best practices surrounding a variety of topics within the field of vascular access.
Although challenging and time consuming, these efforts proved fruitful and the organization grew to 65 members in just one year.
In 1987, BAVAC became BAVAN (Bay Area Vascular Access Network) and a new logo was launched. The founding Board of Directors included Suzanne Herbst, President; Stella Petrakis, President-Elect; Donna Brandstrom, Secretary; Bunny Tigerman, Treasurer; with Dwayne Hardy and Malle Schneideras Directors-at-Large. Over the next few years, membership neared 150, and in keeping with its original objectives, BAVAN began producing a newsletter, BAYVIEWS, and held its first annual conference.
By 1990, membership grew to more than 600 with a significant number of the members outside the San Francisco Bay area. Networks similar to BAVAN started in Orange County, California, (Orange County Vascular Access Network (OCVAN)), and Salt Lake City (Utah Vascular Access Network (UVAN)) with other areas of the country expressing interest in starting their own networks. It was at this time, after much consideration, meditation, discussion, and trepidation, that the process of developing a national organization was begun.
A contest was held to name the new organization. BAVAN became the "National Association of Vascular Access Networks (NAVAN)." In ensuing years NAVAN went through many growing pains and phases. It played a major role in raising awareness and promoting best practices in vascular access and development of VAD education, training, and advocacy.
In November 2002, the NAVAN Board of Directors implemented a strategic planning process to better reflect the organization's worldwide focus. This initiated another name change, approved by membership ballot in the 2003 and the organization became the Association for Vascular Access (AVA).
Today, AVA boasts over 2,600 members from all 50 states while now having a growing international presence. Its mission is to represent and advance the vascular access specialty and community and define standards of vascular access through an evidence-based approach to enhance healthcare and patient outcomes. Today, its multidisciplinary membership advances research, provides professional and public education to shape practice and enhance patient outcomes, and partners with the device manufacturing community to bring about evidence-based innovations in vascular access.
In addition to providing education, presenting awards for excellent AVA also hosts an Annual Scientific Meeting. This year the meeting will be on Columbus, Ohio from September 15-18th. More than 1,400 vascular access professionals are expected to attend the four-day meeting to network and participate in educational sessions, professional development roundtables, hands-on clinical training, and new product demonstrations.