If you’ve only given professional nursing associations a passing thought, it’s time to think hard about the benefits of joining one (or even two!). Many nurses find their membership is one of the most valuable resources they use in their professional—and even oftentimes personal—lives.

Nursing associations are organizations devoted to the professional and personal development of members and also to the general advancement of the profession. Associations offer extensive benefits for membership. Through a professional association you can stay current in the industry, network with other professionals, find a mentor (or become a mentor), access many services, and find opportunities for professional growth. But what many members also find invaluable is the camaraderie that you can only find with others who do what you do.

Choosing the Right Association

How do you know which association is best for you? It comes down to what you’d like the association to do for you, how it fits into your professional and personal life, and what you want to contribute to the organization.

If you’ve never joined a professional nursing organization, you can’t go wrong with a national association like the American Nurses Association. The ANA has local chapters that will let you work closely with your community and also give you access to their large and varied network of resources.

Moreover, there’s no reason not to join more than one association. If you have a particular specialty, there is likely a professional nursing association that targets your niche. Some of these include the Academy of Neonatal Nursing and the Association of Camp Nurses. The National Association of Hispanic Nurses and the National Black Nurses Association are geared toward minority nurses, and others might address the professional concerns of cardiac or OB/GYN nurses.

If you’re a student nurse, the National Student Nurses’ Association is an excellent and dependable resource on everything from scholarships to career planning to even getting an article published. They have chapters nationwide. But if you’re looking for something more local, check out your school or nearby schools for specific associations, such as the Minority Student Nurses Association (MSNA) of the University of Missouri-St. Louis or the Boston College Student Nurses Association.

The Benefits

Some larger organizations offer classes and lectures that can help you earn professional credits; most hold national conferences; some offer insurance benefits and student discounts; and plenty of these large organizations offer career help and networking opportunities.

As with anything else, you will get more out of an association membership if you put something into it. Get involved on a committee, go to the conference, participate in lectures and events, attend and mingle at networking events, and contribute to the newsletter.

Using the association’s resources will help you meet people and grow your own professional network, but will also help you really identify with the other nurses where you can share your professional difficulties and triumphs. If you are experiencing something, it’s pretty likely that you’re not the only one and members of an association often offer help and support you won’t find in other places.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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