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Learn, grow, and bloom by joining a professional association

Guerrieri, Rose MLIS, RN

doi: 10.1097/01.NURSE.0000371128.38511.0d

Plant the seed for professional growth by joining an organization focused on nursing, your specialty, or other common bonds. Then get ready to harvest the benefits.

Rose Guerrieri is library director and assistant professor at Kent State University Trumbull Campus in Warren, Ohio.

BELONGING TO a professional nursing organization brings increased professionalism, autonomy, and self-regulation while offering additional benefits such as social interactions and peer support.1,2 You, too, can reap the rewards of joining a professional association.

This article discusses the professional and personal benefits offered by membership in a nursing association, including educational and professional development opportunities, the ability to make contributions to public policy, and increased socialization and support.

Nursing associations include general national organizations, such as the American Nurses Association; organizations that focus on special practice areas, such as the Emergency Nurses Association; those that promote nursing education, such as the National League for Nursing; and special groups of nurses, such as the American Assembly for Men in Nursing. (See A sampling of nursing associations.)

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Deepen your roots with education

Continuing education is a benefit available from professional associations in many formats: at conferences, meetings, online, or in journal articles. Certification in a specialty also serves as an educational experience and contributes to professional standards for the entire specialty or profession. Many organizations help their members further their education through scholarships and research grants.

Special interest groups within professional organizations (such as the Special Interest Group for Nursing Issues of the American Pain Society) broaden members' professional repertoire by exposing them to their peers' experiences and insights.

Professional journals promote research and provide the means to disseminate research findings. Publication in an organization's professional journal advances not only the reader's education but also the author's professional development. Members may also choose to present at local and national meetings to enhance their educational and professional development.

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Encouraging growth

Membership offers other professional and career development opportunities. Networking at local and national meetings can contribute to your professional growth.

As a member, you can develop your leadership skills by serving as an officer or committee chair. If you're a newcomer, you can benefit by finding a mentor. If you mentor another nurse, you'll hone your leadership skills.

A professional organization often is the public image of a specialty or profession. The public trusts the profession represented by the organization. The organization builds on this trust as it promotes awareness of public policy and advocates for patient welfare. As a member, you'll learn more about healthcare policies and can contribute to patient advocacy through your professional practice at local, state, and national levels.

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Get ready to bloom

Professional associations can help you learn subtle values and priorities not easily communicated in the classroom. Interacting with colleagues offers these benefits:

  • deeper respect for how individuals choose to live their lives
  • increased recognition of the ties that bind patients to their family, community, ethnic group, and the world at large
  • greater appreciation for the intrinsic value of certain work habits such as efficiency, integrity, advocacy, love of learning, and teamwork.

In the past, nurses absorbed these values from other nurses in the workplace. As patients become "quicker and sicker," less time is available in the clinical setting for informal indoctrination of newer nurses by their more experienced colleagues. Nursing professional associations can help to fill the gap by providing another venue for such socialization.

The time squeeze and lack of socialization in clinical areas can contribute to a feeling of isolation among nurses that professional association membership can diminish. Interacting with other nurses in a professional association can give you a sense of belonging and reduce the risk of burnout by giving you a broader perspective. You may be encouraged when you realize that other nurses face and often overcome the same obstacles that you face. Exposure to their achievements can challenge you to similar accomplishments and inspire new goals.

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Plant the seed

After you consider the professional and personal benefits of joining an association, your next step is to choose the most appropriate organization or organizations for you. Plant the seed for a new season of growth and learning, then encourage your nursing colleagues to join you.

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A sampling of nursing associations

These associations accept individuals as members.

American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing

The American Assembly for Men in Nursing

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses

American Association of Managed Care Nurses

American Association of Neuroscience Nurses

American College of Cardiovascular Nurses

American College of Nurse-Midwives

American Holistic Nurses Association

American Nephrology Nurses' Association

American Nurses Association

American Psychiatric Nurses Association

American Public Health Association—Public Health Nursing Section

American Society for Pain Management Nursing

ANIA-CARING (nursing informatics)

AORN (formerly, Association of periOperative Registered Nurses)

Association of Rehabilitation Nurses

Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses

Emergency Nurses Association

Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association

Infusion Nurses Society

National Association for Home Care and Hospice

NANDA International (nursing diagnostic terminology)

National Association of Hispanic Nurses

National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses

National Association of School Nurses

National Black Nurses Association, Inc.

National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations

National Gerontological Nursing Association

National League for Nursing

Oncology Nursing Society

Respiratory Nursing Society

Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, Inc.

Transcultural Nursing Society

Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society

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1. Haley-Andrews S. Role play: mentoring, membership in professional organizations, and the pursuit of excellence in nursing. J Soc Pediatr Nurs. 2001;6(3):1–148, 151.
2. Wynd CA. Current factors contributing to professionalism in nursing. J Prof Nurs. 2003;19(5):1–261.
© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.