When I graduated from nursing school I was given a packet of information about the various professional organizations. I was so overwhelmed at that time that I just put them aside and forgot about them. It took some time for me to begin exploring what they really meant, and looking back, I am sad I missed out on that time to be a part of these organizations from the get-go. It really took some time for me to comprehend exactly how big our profession really is. There really are two parts of nursing: the nurse providing the direct patient care, and then the nurses working behind the scenes to support those providing direct patient care. Upon graduating, I had no idea how big (and essential) this side of nursing really is. I think on some level I knew that had to exist in some capacity, but I didn’t realize exactly how essential this piece of nursing is to the entire profession.
Who they are
These organizations are comprised of nurses. When you work for a hospital that is run by business people, it is great to be part of an organization that is run by nurses! While there are groups of various specialties (and practically every single specialty you could imagine!) there is also the American Nurses Association, which is for any registered nurse in the United States. There are also nursing organization for each state as well.
What they do
These organizations provide a host of resources and support to their members. What I find particularly valuable are the publications that most provide. I am a member of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA), the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN), and the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN). Every month I receive journals from these organizations that are talking about the latest research, evidence-based practice, and issues that affect that particular patient population or region.
By staying up to date with these you are being constantly informed about the latest information and best practice for your patients. It is quite empowering. This information and access to their databases allows you to know what is most current, what other hospitals and health systems across the country are doing so that you may implement the latest and greatest with your patients at your hospital. Knowing the latest research allows you to engage in educated and thought-provoking conversations with your team members and those that are in decision-making positions at your facility. This is how change happens!
These organizations are also closely affiliated with specialty certification organizations. In most cases the professional association establishes the standards upon which the certification is based. Many specialties offer a certification. For example, the AACN Certification Corporation offers several certifications for critical care nurses. I took that CCRN certification exam in Sept. 2015 and am now a certified critical care nurse!
Why you should join
Professional organizations provide an outlet for your professional development outside of the walls of your facility. These groups will help complete the picture of our profession for you. While the face-to-face interaction with the patient is an essential aspect of our profession, the behind the scenes work is just as vital, and this is where it occurs. They provide many educational and networking opportunities, from online CEUs to national conferences. Many organizations work with schools and provide various scholarships for degrees as well.
How much does it cost?
It really depends on which organization, so I won’t outline it here. However, many hospitals and employers will reimburse for the membership fees. They do this because it furthers your professional development and enhances your career. Most will reimburse after you pay for your membership upfront but some will submit payment for you. It is definitely worth checking out if your employer offers this benefit!
How you can get involved
This is a link to all of the professional nursing organization in the United States. I encourage you not only to join the professional organization for your patient population, but also the American Nurses Association and your respective state organization. Becoming a member of these organizations will enable you to complete the picture of nursing for your specific population and the entire nation as well.
To show you exactly what you get and what access you have with a membership, I logged on to the American Nurse’s Association website with my member login so you can really see what is there. There is such a huge amount of information about so many things and I just want to show you how it is all set up. I also will quickly show you the homepage of the American Association of Critical Care Nurse’s homepage so you can see how much information each group provides. Spoiler alert – it’s a lot.
What I also really appreciate is when schools work with these professional organizations to provide more ways to further your career as a nurse. For example, Capella University and the ANA Leadership Institute are now offering a “Nurse Leader Scholarship” for nurses who want to advance their career and move into expanded clinical and leadership roles. The scholarships, ranging from $4,500-$7,500, are available for Capella University’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program and Doctor of Nursing (DNP) program. Applicants for the scholarship are required to be ANA members as of May 1, 2016, new to Capella and must apply and start by September 12th.
I encourage you, professional to professional, to check out your specialty’s professional organization as well as the American Nurses Association and your respective state organization. Read journals, write to your member of congress, participate in research studies, get more education. You don’t have to be a nurse with a certain number of years experience to be a member and dive deeper into your professional development. You just have to be a nurse!