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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
A sampling of nursing associations
These associations accept individuals as members.
American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursinghttp://www.aaacn.org/
The American Assembly for Men in Nursinghttp://www.aamn.org/
American Association of Critical-Care Nurseshttp://www.aacn.org/
American Association of Managed Care Nurseshttp://www.aamcn.org/
American Association of Neuroscience Nurseshttp://www.aann.org/
American College of Cardiovascular Nurseshttp://accn.net/
American College of Nurse-Midwiveshttp://www.midwife.org/
American Holistic Nurses Associationhttp://www.ahna.org/
American Nephrology Nurses' Associationhttp://anna.inurse.com/
American Nurses Associationhttp://www.nursingworld.org/
American Psychiatric Nurses Associationhttp://www.apna.org/
American Public Health Association—Public Health Nursing Sectionhttp://www.apha.org/membergroups/sections/aphasections/phn/
American Society for Pain Management Nursinghttp://www.aspmn.org/
ANIA-CARING (nursing informatics)http://www.ania.org/
AORN (formerly, Association of periOperative Registered Nurses)http://www.aorn.org/
Association of Rehabilitation Nurseshttp://www.rehabnurse.org/
Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurseshttp://www.awhonn.org/
Emergency Nurses Associationhttp://www.ena.org/
Hospice and Palliative Nurses Associationhttp://www.hpna.org/
Infusion Nurses Societyhttp://www.ins1.org/
National Association for Home Care and Hospicehttp://www.nahc.org
NANDA International (nursing diagnostic terminology)http://www.nanda.org/
National Association of Hispanic Nurseshttp://www.thehispanicnurses.org/
National Association of Orthopaedic Nurseshttp://www.orthonurse.org
National Association of School Nurseshttp://www.nasn.org/
National Black Nurses Association, Inc. http://www.nbna.org/
National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associationshttp://www.ncemna.org/
National Gerontological Nursing Associationhttp://www.ngna.org/
National League for Nursinghttp://www.nln.org/
Oncology Nursing Societyhttp://www.ons.org/
Respiratory Nursing Societyhttp://www.respiratorynursingsociety.org/
Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, Inc. http://www.sgna.org/
Transcultural Nursing Societyhttp://www.tcns.org
Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Societyhttp://www.wocn.org/