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  • NS - Choosing a Professional Organization

    By Michele N Pedulla DNP, ARNP, CPNP-PC
    Graduate Nursing Professor
    Kaplan University School of Nursing

    The goal of professional organizations is to support nurses to grow and to lead, individually and as a group. They provide a voice to empower change at the local and national level. Professional organizations also add richly to your professional and personal life, as sources for continuing education and networking, and ultimately fostering your growth within the profession.

    Understanding Our Profession 

    Every nurse must be well-versed in two crucial documents: the Code of Ethics and their state’s Nurse Practice Act (NPA). Professional organizations, such as the American Nurses Association, can decipher the legal verbiage within these documents and assist you in being informed and connected within the profession and the evolving role of nurses in the delivery of care.

    The Code of Ethics is the foundation of nursing and has been a pillar of state nurse practice acts since 1950, making it a legal standard of care. The Code of Ethics has recently been revised in response to present and future issues in our complex world of nursing, continually making the commitment to our stakeholders that we will provide the best care while fulfilling our professional and ethical obligations to nursing. Rules and regulations defined in the Nurse Practice Act vary from state to state, but, as a whole, these NPAs promise the patients and community that safe, competent nursing practice is an expectation, defined by law.

    Professional Opportunities 

    As a student interested in understanding nursing resources, professional organizations typically provide membership at a reduced rate and allow for the student to observe what the organization has to offer. Some benefits for a student that joins professional nursing organizations in their area of interest include preceptor and potential employment contacts. It also provides exposure to a group of seasoned nurses with similar interests available to the novice nurse.

    Networking is a key benefit of any professional organization you join. Active membership provides opportunities to seek and embrace leadership positions, at the local and national level, which could help you stand out when seeking advancement opportunities.

    Platform for Advocacy 

    Professional organizations provide an important avenue for becoming politically involved in your community both locally and nationally. They give a unified voice to nurses who strive to make the changes that are necessary to advance health. These platforms for advocacy stem from the Code of Ethics, created by nurses for nurses, and may include areas of interest such as safety in the workplace for nurses and increased autonomy for advanced practice nurses, creating a sense of oneness among all nurses.

    In the political arena, nurses are well-represented by lobbyists and nurse leaders who inform legislators of issues concerning healthcare issues and quality care. For those who are not able to travel to Capitol Hill, Virtual Lobby Days are a mainstay for nurses, offering speaking points about important matters impacting our profession.  

    Lifelong Learning 

    An integral part of nursing is the concept of lifelong learning, which ensures the nurse professional to maintain competence, as discussed in Provision 5 of the Code of Ethics. Being a member of professional nursing organizations can open the door to a plethora of resources to aide in your pursuit of advanced learning and specialization.  They provide access to continuing education opportunities as well as update providers with the latest advancements in care. As the nurse moves from novice to expert, opportunities to give back to the profession increases the individual and profession’s lifelong learning in many ways including presentations, lectures, and evidence-based research.

    Finding a Balance 

    Because of the number and variety of professional organizations dedicated to the nursing profession, these avenues to pursue may be overwhelming to some. To streamline the process, ask your colleagues about their involvement in professional organizations. Many offer both local and national chapters, which allows for involvement based on the comfort level of the nurse. Often times, you may attend meetings as a guest for a nominal fee.

    Stay informed of the key health care issues in your community and learn to address these key issues with your legislators. All nurses, regardless of their level of experience and professional role, should be involved with professional organizations. The benefits to both the individual and profession are too many to be ignored.

    Article originally published in Advance for Nurses.

    Michele N. Pedulla is a graduate nursing professor at Kaplan University School of Nursing. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University. 

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