Five Reasons to Join A Nursing Specialty Association

March 9th, 2012

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By , BSN, RN

Two weeks from today I will be packing to go to New Orleans. No, it’s not a vacation, but it will be fun. I am headed to The Big Easy for the annual meeting of my professional nursing organization. I am a member of AORN, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, Inc.

AORN is a non-profit specialty organization that represents the interests of 160,000 perioperative nurses nationwide. AORN provides nursing education, standards, and clinical practice resources to enable optimal outcomes for patients undergoing operative and other invasive procedures. AORN’s 40,000 RN members manage, teach, and practice perioperative nursing, are enrolled in nursing education, or are engaged in perioperative research.

AORN’s mission as stated by the organization “is to promote safety and optimal outcomes for patients undergoing operative and other invasive procedures by providing practice support and professional development opportunities to perioperative nurses. AORN will collaborate with professional and regulatory organizations, industry leaders, and other health care partners who support the mission.”

The organization’s “Vision Statement” is to “be the indispensable resource for evidence-based practice and education that establishes the standards of excellence in the delivery of perioperative nursing care.”

AORN, its mission and vision, is representative of the dozens of professional nursing organizations available to nurses of every specialty. For nominal dues you have access to endless information, continuing education, most have a specialty journal that comes with membership, and you get a chance to interact with your peers from across the country at least once a year.

There are many professional nursing organizations available to join. Some represent nursing as a whole, some are specifically for nursing students, some are national and some international in membership and scope. There are many good reasons to join any of them but particularly the organization that represents the specialty area you have chosen to work in.

  • Education – Staying on top of the latest advances and keeping your chosen area of expertise fresh is a huge benefit garnered from joining a professional association. They offer opportunities for continuing education through meetings, seminars, webinars, and conventions. If your home state requires continuing education credits for licensing, what better way to collect them than while enhancing your own knowledge base.
  • Personal and Professional Development – If you are interested in networking, advancing your career, or taking on more leadership responsibilities, joining a professional organization offers all that and more. There are committees to join, research projects to take part in, and social and political causes supported by the organization that need volunteers. You gain visibility, grow in confidence, and have the opportunity to sharpen your communication and leadership skills.
  • Perspective – It’s really easy to get comfortable in our own little bubbles. We know how our unit functions, what our jobs require of us, and where we fit in our home hospital or other facility. It’s time to get out of the house. Joining a professional organization opens a window to the bigger picture of a chosen area of nursing, issues affecting nursing as a whole, and where nursing fits into healthcare overall.
  • Certification – Most specialty organizations offer certification in that specialty area. While certification is mostly voluntary, more hospitals are requiring their nurses to be certified within a certain number of years after joining the organization. Certification is a step on most hospital career ladders, may get you paid more and/or gain bonuses. Certification shows management a certain commitment to personal and professional growth.
  • Networking – Flat out, it’s a great way to meet people who share at least one interest with you. It’s a great way to stay in touch with what’s going on at other facilities in your area; it’s a great way to get a lead on a new job if you are looking.

As a nursing student these organizations are a great help when it comes to choosing what area you want to practice in. Most offer very low student rates that provide complete access to the organization. You can research a given specialty; find a mentor or even an internship. You have to opportunity to interact with others already in the field and see if this really is a career path you choose to travel.

Normally, I would now include a list of nursing specialty organizations and their websites. To be honest, why reinvent the wheel. It is a very long list of everything you can imagine, so instead I give links to two different list pages. The American Journal of Nursing printed this list in its career guide in 2009 and it includes addresses, phone numbers, and web addresses. The other list is simply links to the each organization's web site. Take a look around, pick a specialty and click. You never know what will capture your interest or your imagination.

In the meantime I’ll be mapping my route to New Orleans, packing my clothes and my car, and pouring over the schedule brochure for the convention, picking out the sessions I can’t wait to attend. While I am there I will keep you all posted with photos, tweets, Facebook shares and articles about the latest in the world of nursing.

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