Nursing associations are organizations devoted to the professional and personal development of members and to the general advancement of the profession. Joining a professional nursing association is essential due to the ever-changing field of nursing, according to Kathleen Gaines, BSN, BA, RN, CBC.
According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), “professional development is a vital phase of lifelong learning in which nurses engage to develop and maintain competence, enhance professional nursing practice, and support the achievement of career goals”.
Nursing organizations empower nurses to stay up to date on current practices, read what leaders in the field are saying, and get a glimpse at what other hospitals around the country are doing to innovate and advance patient care.
Joining a professional nursing association provides resources, information, and opportunities to nurses that might not be available otherwise. There are countless benefits to joining organizations and very few disadvantages. Associations do not require attendance at their meetings or conventions and participation is not required, but members are highly encouraged to take part in all the association has to offer.
The main disadvantage is the cost of joining multiple organizations. Nursing associations at the state and national levels can have substantial annual fees. Unfortunately, these fees can rarely be offset but if the fee is affordable, it is HIGHLY encouraged to join the associations directly related to your practice.
Benefits of Nursing Organization
Joining a nursing organization has many benefits, including:
- Local meetings and annual conventions
- Certification discounts
- Career assistance
- Access to experts and mentors
- Products and resources
- Newsletters with practice-related information
- Position papers and statements
- Discounted rates for continuing education courses
- Professional and/or peer-reviewed journals
- Resume appeal
- Strengthening of the nursing profession
With all of the different choices, deciding which nursing association(s) to join can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing. Experts recommend joining the American Nurses Association (ANA) because it covers a broad scope of practice and offers a comprehensive way to stay on top of the trends in nursing. It also can be beneficial to join an organization that is specific to your specialty.
Each nursing organization has its own associated fees at the state and national levels. Prior to joining, it is important to determine which organizations fit your needs and help you in your professional practice. FYI — hospitals generally do NOT reimburse for professional nursing organization fees, but always check because some do consider it part of professional development.
Top Nursing Organizations
American Nurses Association (ANA)
Founded in 1896, the American Nurses Association is one of the oldest, largest, and most recognizable nursing organizations in the country. At the initial assembly convention in New York City, there were fewer than twenty nurses, whereas two years later there were 10,000 nurses in attendance.
Through organizational affiliates and different member organizations, the ANA promotes the rights of nurses in the workplace, lobbies Congress and regulatory agencies on health care issues and supports a number of subsidiary organizations related to nursing including the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
National League for Nursing (NLN)
The NLN, founded in 1893, was the first professional nursing organization in the United States. According to the website, the NLN offers professional development, networking opportunities, testing services, nursing research grants, and public policy initiatives to its 40,000 individual and 1,200 institutional members.
The primary purpose of the NLN represents nursing education in healthcare organizations and institutions of higher learning. The core values of the NLN are Caring, Integrity, Diversity, and Excellence. The NLN has four main goals:
- Lead nursing education
- Commit to members
- Champion for nurse educators
- Advance the science of nursing education
Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN)
With more than 11,500 members, the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses represents the largest subspecialty of the nursing profession and is the only professional nursing organization dedicated to medical-surgical nurses.
The ANA discovered an overwhelming need for a nursing association specifically for medical surgical nurses after a survey in 1990. The AMSN offers clinical practice resources, career guidance, professional development tools, and publications specifically related to the medical-surgical nursing role.
American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)
The American Association of Critical Care Nurses is the world’s largest specialty nursing organization that is specifically intended for critical care nurses. The AACN is a national level organization with more than 200 chapters throughout the United States. Each individual chapter has specific requirements for membership.
The AACN offers critical care certification resources, continuing education opportunities, and networking events that help to support its core values of accountability, innovation, leadership, and collaboration.
Members of the American Academy of Nursing are among the most educated in the nursing profession, with 90% holding doctoral degrees and the remaining 10% holding master’s degrees. An invitation to join this organization represents recognition of one’s accomplishments within the nursing profession.
Members of this organization include association executives, university presidents, chancellors, deans, state and federal political appointees, hospital chief executives and vice presidents for nursing, nurse consultants, researchers, and entrepreneurs.
Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma)
Sigma currently has more than 135,000 active members in over 90 countries. There are approximately 530 chapters at more than 700 institutions of higher education. In 1936, Sigma became the first US nursing organization to fund nursing research.
Sigma awards more than $200,000 in grants, scholarships, and monetary awards, has a handful of education and research conferences including a yearly research congress, online continuing nursing education including interactive learning activities, and a career development program.
National Student Nurse Association
The National Student Nurse Association is the official pre-professional organization for nursing students. Formed in 1953, the NSNA originally functioned under the ANA and the NLN; however, in 1968, the NSNA became its own autonomous body.
The organization has over 60,000 members in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The NSNA mentors the professional development of future registered nurses and facilitates their entrance into the profession by providing educational resources, leadership opportunities, and career guidance.
The Board of Directors comprised of nine elected nursing students that represent the interests of the members. The annual convention draws more than 30,000 students.
Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN)
The mission of the SPN is to advance the specialty of pediatric nursing through excellence in education, research, and practice. Since its inception in 1990, SPN has grown to over 3,500 members including from over 28 sub-specializations. Dedicated specifically to pediatric nursing, this association is a must join for all pediatric nurses.
How to Join a Professional Nursing Organization
Joining a professional nursing organization requires only four steps:
- Determine which nursing organization is the best fit.
- Apply to the association on the website.
- Pay the association membership fee.
- Start using all the benefits the organization has to offer!