Professional organizations were created as a platform for nurses to advocate for the profession, support nurses’ rights, and ensure quality healthcare for consumers (Echevarria, 2018). Members of professional organizations can advocate locally, state-wide, nationally, and globally to support issues that impact the nursing profession and healthcare as a whole.
Nurses can choose from hundreds of professional organizations to advocate for the profession and attain a wide variety of membership benefits. For a list of national, state, and international professional organizations, .
Membership within professional organizations offers nurses infinite opportunities to make a significant impact with advancing the profession, professional growth, and the healthcare system. Echevarria (2018) shares some additional ways to get involved:
- Advocate for healthcare consumers’ rights, health, and safety
- Influence healthcare delivery by participating in, promoting, and using evidence-based knowledge and research findings to guide practice and decision-making
- Promote the ethical principles of research
- Identify barriers and opportunities to improve healthcare safety, equitability, and efficiency
- Critically review policies, procedures, and guidelines to improve quality
- Influence organizational policies and procedures to guide practice and promote interprofessional, evidence-based practices
- Advocate for resources that promote and support nursing practice
See Chapter 2 content on Professional Development Plan for a review of mentoring and networking in professional nursing.
In addition to serving the profession and improving the healthcare system, membership offers nurses a multitude of professional benefits. Some benefits also include:
- Continuing education
- Specialty certification
- Best practices for nursing care
- Promote the rights of nurses
- Synchronous and asynchronous webinars
- Face-to-face seminars
- Journal access
- Career resources, job boards
- Conference engagements and opportunities (Echevarria, 2018)
- Discount on conference and certification registration fees
- Personal benefits, such as discounts on car rental, life insurance, professional liability insurance, and more
Nurses who take advantage of the activities offered by professional organizations meet the competencies for Standard 13, Education, in the ANA (2021) Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice. For example, attending conferences offer nurses an opportunity to share their research and knowledge through podium and poster presentations. Below is a summary of the competencies for the Education Standard:
- Participates in continuing professional development activities related to nursing and interprofessional knowledge bases and professional topics.
- Shares educational findings, experiences, and ideas with peers and interprofessional colleagues.
- Seeks professional or specialty certification.
- Maintains current knowledge and skills relative to the role, population, specialty, setting, and local or global health situation (ANA, 2021, pp. 98-99)
The following six values of membership in professional organizations aligns with the American Nurses Association (ANA, 2015c) Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice:
- Professional development
- Service to the profession
- Career growth
Provision 9 of the ANA (2015a) Code of Ethics includes a requirement about advocacy efforts. Advocacy is fundamental to nursing practice, and through membership and participation in professional organizations, nurses can fulfill the following provision: “The profession of nursing, collectively through its professional organizations, must articulate nursing values, maintain the integrity of the profession, and integrate principles of social justice into nursing and health policy” (ANA, 2015a, p. 151).
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) sponsors the annual Lobby Day in Albany, NY. Thousands of nurses gather each year to organize their efforts and meet with legislators to share their position on the current bills in the house or senate. For information about Lobby Day, visit . One of the hotly debated topics nurses have discussed with legislators for years (almost 10 years) at Lobby Day is the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. A summary of the bill with the proposed nurse-patient ratios can be found at the website and the actual bill can be viewed at the .
The ANA also has an annual Lobby Day Lobby Day in Washington D.C. Hundreds of nurses gather at Capitol Hill to meet with federal lawmakers to discuss major health issues, such as workplace violence, Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019, Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act of 2019 and more (Capitol Beat, 2019). For information about Lobby Day, visit .
Participating in professional organization activities gives nurses an opportunity to give back to the profession. Echevarria (2018) shares a number of volunteer options for nurses:
- Participate on committees and task forces
- Hold a board position (see NOBC narrative below)
- Assist with organization-sponsored conferences and community events
- Work on regional and national projects:
- Review certification exams
- Work on legislative issues
- Serve as a regional director
- Work on an education committee
The Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC, 2019) represents national nursing (and other) organizations to build healthier communities through nurses’ presence on corporate, health-related, and other boards, panels, and commissions. The NOBC was created in 2014 in response to the Institute of Medicine (2010) report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. The report recommended increasing the number of nurse leaders in pivotal decision-making roles on boards and commissions that work to improve the health of the U.S. population.
The goal of the NOBC (2019) is to fill at least 10,000 board seats with nurses by 2020. In addition, NOBC seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of having a nurse’s perspective in decision-making on issues related to improving health and creating a more efficient and effective healthcare system at local, state, and national levels. For more information about NOBC, .
As stated earlier, benefits to joining a professional organization give nurses the opportunity to meet required competencies of a professional registered nurse. Nurses have an opportunity to advocate for themselves the nursing profession (such as the Safe Staffing bill) and serve society by using their knowledge and competencies to improve the health of their communities.
Professional growth and career opportunities are endless. Membership offers many networking opportunities with other healthcare professionals at conferences, involvement in Lobby Days, community events, serving on a board of trustees, and more. Mentoring is a rewarding experience for both the mentor and mentee. By helping nurses gain competencies and confidence, the healthcare system is strengthened, patients receive quality care, which in turn leads to improved patient care experiences and satisfaction rates.
Through organization membership, nurses can fulfill lifelong learning requirements to meet a variety of needs and requirements, such as license and certification renewal and incorporate evidence into practice. Depending on career goals and professional development needs, nurses should evaluate and compare member benefits from different organizations. If a career goal is to obtain specialty certification, it would be prudent to choose an organization that offers reduced fees for a review course. If the goal is to obtain access to evidence-based practice resources for a specialty setting, find a specialty organization that offers these resources.
Some membership dues can be costly, though some offer a student discount. Nurses who are unable to join an organization can still benefit from visiting professional organization websites. Many organizations offer resources without membership. To choose the right organization, Echevarria (2018) suggests nurses ask themselves if the organization:
- meets professional growth needs
- aligns with current role/specialty
- meets personal/professional advocacy efforts
Professional organization membership benefits everyone: patients, nurses, the nursing profession, and the entire healthcare delivery system as a whole.