Participation in professional organizations is not tied to the licensure process. However, there can be considerable advantages to joining one (or more). You often find resources just by browsing the websites of national organizations. You can get additional benefits by paying membership dues. Depending on the organization and locale, perks can include everything from access to online professional literature to real-world mentoring and transition to practice.
As a member, you can expect discounted rates for conferences and continuing education. You don’t generally have to belong to an organization to take classes. However, the more active you are professionally, the more likely it is that you’ll end up saving money. You may also receive newsletters or professional journals; just receiving periodic correspondences can be a reminder to network with other professionals and share in the larger nursing conversation.
You may find it beneficial to join a nursing organization even before you earn your degree.
The Health Occupations Students Association (HOSA) may be the first nursing-related organization you’ll have the opportunity to join. There are membership opportunities at both the high school and college levels. HOSA holds state and national competitions in clinical nursing (as well as other health professions). The organization is a potential scholarship source.
Depending on your location, you may find other opportunities at the school level. Some colleges have pre-nursing organizations for underclassmen who have not yet been formally admitted to a nursing program.
If you’re currently enrolled in a nursing program, you may wish to join the National Student Nurses Association: an organization that boasts more than 60,000 members. As a member of the NSNA, you’ll have the opportunity to build your professional portfolio online.
The best known professional nursing organization is probably the American Nurses Association, or ANA. At the national level, ANA serves professional (registered) nurses. Some state divisions also accept Licensed Practical Nurses, LPNs – this is more likely to happen when the state doesn’t have an organization specifically for practical nurses.
ANA member benefits include free and discounted continuing education opportunities and access to online social/ professional networking. Some individuals join for liability insurance and other financial perks. As a nonmember, you can drop in and check out various free resources, including a podcast.
The National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses is the primary national organization for LPNs and LVNs; fifteen states have corresponding state associations.
The NFLPN offers certifications in IV and gerontology as well as professional development in a variety of areas. High achieving practical nursing students can seek recognition through the NFLPN Student Honor Society.
No matter what your practice area, you can find a specialty nursing organization. The largest one is the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, which serves nurses who work with critically ill patients (generally in hospital settings). As a member, you can take unlimited online continuing education courses. You’ll also pay significantly less to take certification examinations. You can begin pursuing certifications once you have two years’ experience; membership is not a requirement, but, again, it provides significant economic savings. Other members-only benefits include scholarship opportunities and access to a nursing literature database that includes many full-text articles.
Some organizations help members of underrepresented populations stay connected with peers. The American Assembly for Men in Nursing is one such organization. You can join as an RN, LPN, or a nursing student. As a member, you can participate in a mentorship program. The AAMN hosts an annual conference and sponsors an essay-based scholarship.
Among the other specialty nursing organizations are the American Holistic Nurses Association, the American Nephrology Nurses Association, the Alliance for Psychosocial Nursing, and the American Association of Managed Care Nurses.
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