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Join Nursing Associations to Advance Your Career and the Profession


Whether you are a new grad or seasoned practitioner, you know nurses who have joined a professional nursing association.

So what are nursing associations all about? Why should you join one and who has memberships in them? The nurses in these organizations come from all work settings and specialties in nursing. You all work in different ways, but with the same goal in mind -- to continually improve the nursing profession. Your memberships help you become more proficient in your specialties and help you grow your careers. Nursing associations offer you opportunities to learn from other nurses who are experts in their fields at their regular education events, such as:

  • Seminars
  • Meetings
  • Conventions

By doing so, nursing associations contribute to nursing's body of knowledge because they share thoughts and opinions on important topics, answer questions on professional issues and develop members' skills in writing, speaking, debating and more. Two important hallmarks of nursing associations are upholding and sharing organizational values and helping members advance professionally. In large measure these two hallmarks are at the heart of nursing's professional organizations and have been since they began.

In one of her famous quotes Florence Nightingale said, "Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses. We must be learning all of our lives."

In the countless educational opportunities professional nursing association memberships provide, you will find you embrace lifelong learning like our founder envisioned.

Nursing associations have a rich history

The first nursing organization was founded in 1893 as the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses, now known as the National League for Nursing. A second nursing association was founded in 1896 called the Associated Alumnae of Trained Nurses of the United States and Canada. This organization evolved into what you now know as the American Nurses Association (ANA). A third organization was formed in 1899 -- the International Council of Nurses -- and became the first international professional nursing association. These three organizations continue to remain influential in nursing and healthcare today. And since they began, more than 100 national professional nursing associations now exist in the U.S. ranging from specific specialties to state-based organizations to diverse groups and more.

Pick from local, national or international nursing associations

In the more than 100 organizations in nursing, there is one for you. You can be part of county, city or state groups, or larger national ones by joining at the local, national or international level. Examples include:

  1. The American Nurses Association -- With members in 50 states and U.S. territories, the ANA represents 4 million RNs, working to improve healthcare, promote ethical nursing practices and safe workplaces, establish high practice standards and help nurses and patients by providing them with information on issues that affect them.
  2. The National League for Nurses -- The NLN's focus is on nursing education and seeks to help nurses through professional development, exam services, public policy and research. The league includes 40,000 individual members and 1,200 institutional members.
  3. International Council of Nurses -- On a worldwide basis, the International Council of Nurses, made up of more than 130 national nurses associations, represents about 20 million nurses globally. The council works to ensure quality nursing care for all, sound health policies worldwide, the advancement of nursing knowledge and the presence worldwide of a respected nursing profession and a competent and satisfied nursing workforce.
  4. The National Student Nurses' Association -- At the very beginning of a nurse's education, there is the National Student Nurses' Association. The association boasts more than 60,000 members and promotes and fosters professional development and enculturation into nursing.

Why join a nursing association?

There are many reasons to join professional nursing organizations and so few not to join. If you haven't joined yet, what are you waiting for? Reasons you should join a nursing association include to:

  • Stay involved and up to date on professional nursing issues.
  • Work on new and advanced practice issues.
  • Have a voice in what's happening in our profession.
  • Plan to get specialty certification and need a program of study leading to certification.
  • Have an interest in politics and getting involved in advocacy and lobbying.
  • Want to meet other new and interesting nurses who enjoy networking, getting ahead professionally, increasing their education and salary.

If you have already joined a professional organization, keep renewing your membership, working with new nurses and helping and involving them. These are professional mandates too important to ignore. We read in journal articles about changing membership numbers in our organizations. So it's up to all of us not to let numbers decrease. Professional interaction and sharing are professional imperatives to follow if nurses want to continue to be the biggest part of the workforce and best in healthcare. No matter where you are in your career, make it a point to move on this. Join your colleagues, look for the next meeting of your specialty's professional organization and attend. Do the research, find a mentor and be mentor -- don't stay on the sidelines. Sign up, attend meetings and get involved. Stand up and speak out so you can show your passion for nursing and be heard. You have so much to give.

Take these courses related to advancing your nursing career:

Empowering Your Nursing Career (1 contact hr) Do you feel empowered to navigate your career? Are you trying to decide which specialty to pursue, how to begin your professional nursing career, or how to make a change to an existing career? Learn about how you can make your personality characteristics work for you by considering correlated nursing specialties and environments you might enjoy more than others. Learn about leadership and lifestyle choices to create balance and motivation for your nursing calling! Networking for Career Advancement (1 contact hr) Networking is one of the most important career-building tools available to any professional, including nurses. So whether a nurse is hunting for a job, seeking a promotion, running for office, starting a business, seeking consultative work, pursuing higher education, entering public service or writing for publication, networking is an effective sales and marketing strategy for building a positive power base to attain long- and short-term career goals. This educational activity will provide guidance on networking for career advancement. Developing Your Leadership Potential (6.8 contact hrs) As the largest healthcare profession in the U.S. and the profession positioned on the front line of patient care, nurses are crucial for leading change and advancing health. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine made recommendations to transform the nursing profession in their report "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health." A key message from the report is the recommendation that nurses be full partners together with physicians and other healthcare professionals in redesigning the country's healthcare system. This activity will provide practical strategies to help you develop your personal plan for developing your leadership potential regardless of your chosen career path.