two nurses (male and female) sitting and talking in a hospital hallway

Beyond the Certification: Joining a Nursing Association

The day you can finally put your up-to-date name tag on your scrubs- the one that proudly shows your name followed by those hard-earned initials- is very exciting. As you begin a new phase in your career as a nurse, you'll want to keep your skills and credentials as fresh and up-to-date as your shiny new name tag. Nursing experts agree that getting involved in nursing associations is one of the best ways to further your career, make important connections and continue learning. 

What are nursing associations? 

Nurses, educators and students typically make up the membership of nursing associations. These organizations were created, some of them over 100 years ago, to benefit their members in many ways:

  • Further education. Medical advancement can happen quickly, so having a reliable, current resource for updates is important for healthcare providers. 
  • Annual conventions. Membership in nursing associations typically provides you with a discount rate to attend nursing conferences, where you can attend seminars and meet others. 
  • Networking and career support. Through conferences, directories, meet-ups and online forum groups, you can quickly get answers about on-the-job questions or career support as you grow your professional circle. Many have job boards and career newsletters.
  • Professional development, certifications and training. Many large, national associations offer certification in various aspects of nursing to let you turn a specialty into a line that will attract notice on a resume. 
  • Informational resources. The larger, national associations often have their own professional, peer-reviewed nursing journal that members can access, along with other journals and guides. 

The variety of associations available to members is vast, as there are memberships available at state and national levels for different types of nursing. Most require an annual membership fee that gives you access to member benefits. 

Which nursing associations are best for me?

Dr. Joyce Gentry, Associate Director Nursing Program at Columbia College, recommends looking at highly-recognized national organizations with a general scope and long histories, such as the American Nurses Association and the National League for Nursing. Both of these organizations offer extensive professional development opportunities, additional certifications and educational or professional tool resources, like online access to PubMed or Nursing Education Perspectives.

At the state level, Faye Fairchild, Instructor of Nursing, and Tina Dalrymple, Nursing and Health Sciences Program Coordinator, agree that joining a more localized organization can have valuable opportunities, especially for new nurses building their professional relationships and networks. For example, they recommend the Missouri Nurses Association and the Missouri League for Nursing as two well-regarded state organizations. 

There are also niche organizations specific to the type of nursing you're interested in. For example, Fairchild and Dalrymple shared that the American Association of Critical Care Nurses provides "outstanding opportunities for nurses all over the country." 

To find a nursing association that fits your interests and location, this site, has a comprehensive list of national, state and international nursing organizations. With hundreds to choose from, you'll be able to find the one that works best for you — maybe it will help you add a few more initials onto your name badge.

Related content:

When Did You Know You Wanted to be a Nurse?

Pinned to Tradition: History of the Nursing Pinning Ceremony

Celebrating the Profound and Sometimes Invisible Work Nurses Do

Networking, Workforce

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photo of Maria Haynie