Winning Through Associations

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

Would you like to get a competitive edge in the workplace? Do you want to stay sharp with your knowledge and skills? Would you like to develop your leadership, speaking, and writing abilities? Do you want to have a voice in issues that affect nursing practice, licensure, and other areas? You can do all of this and more by becoming active in your state nurses association and specialty organization.

Although many nurses belong to their specialty organizations, many have never joined their state nurses association (SNA). I’ve heard all the reasons: “It’s too expensive. They don’t represent me. What did they ever do for me?” But you don’t join an SNA out of a sense of responsibility or loyalty, but rather out of a desire to be the best nurse you can be. If you find out “what’s in it” for you, you may be as surprised as I was.

Here are some advantages of involvement in professional associations:

1. Belonging. A number of years ago, I decided to join my SNA because I wanted to be more connected to my profession. When I received my first ANA ( publication and read about what was happening nationally, I suddenly felt I was part of a greater whole, something I hadn’t previously experienced in my 20-plus years in nursing. I realize now what I had been missing out on all those years.

2. Support. You gain an immediate personal and professional support system of others who share your interests and concerns. I had heard that people in my SNA were snobby and aloof but I found quite the opposite when I got out to local chapter meetings. Of course, I made an effort to introduce myself and talk to other members. (See Steps for Successful Networking .) Being connected to a local network of peers and getting out to meetings reminds you that you’re not alone, gives you a chance to let off steam with others who know your experiences, and even laugh about your situation.

3. Education. Professional associations offer opportunities for continuing education, often for minimal or no cost, through meetings, seminars, and conventions. I recently attended a full-day seminar on managed care through my SNA, complete with contact hours and a hot lunch, for $15.

4. Mentoring. Find a mentor or be a mentor. I participated in a mentoring program through my SNA and was assigned to a new graduate. I felt I didn’t have the time to do this but believed working with the new graduate was a way for me to contribute to my profession in a real way. The new grad and I both got something out of the situation and remain friends. Who says nurses eat their young?

5. Personal and professional development. Working on committees and holding office are good ways to increase your visibility, develop confidence, and hone your leadership and communication skills. Sharpen your writing skills by submitting an article for your local chapter or state newsletter. Want to practice speaking? Volunteer to give a presentation at a local meeting. Opportunities for growth and development are endless.

6. Information. Stay fully informed about what’s happening in your profession through local and national association publications, newsletters, and e-mails. Stay abreast of legislative, clinical, and licensing information as well as trends in employment and practice. Hear what nurses are doing in your area.

7. Unity. Professional associations allow nurses to speak in one loud voice. Media, legislative, and regulatory sources usually turn to the SNA when they want information, comments, and experts. Also, a statewide association holds clout when attempting to get the attention of important and influential people. Let your voice be heard by attending meetings, expressing your opinion, and getting “in-the-know” about important issues that affect your profession.

8. Broadened perspective. Many of us stay isolated in our facility and unit. Getting out and meeting other nurses is important. When I attended my first ANA convention years ago, meeting nurses from across the country was exhilarating. I discovered that nurses everywhere had the same concerns, challenges, and fears that I did. I also discovered that we all shared the same passion for our profession and patient care and much more. And I made new friends from different parts of the country with whom I still communicate.

Joining professional associations is mandatory for your professional growth and development and a key to career success. If you want to be a champion in your profession, join today.

Copyright Donna Cardillo ( All rights reserved.

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