Nurses attending a networking event.

Like blood cells, individual nurses are limited in what they can achieve alone. But when they unite through nursing associations, they form a powerful force that can influence healthcare policies, drive innovation, and ultimately improve health outcomes nationally and globally. Not only that, but nurses can also harness the power of nursing associations for professional development.

5 Benefits of Joining Nursing Associations

Nursing associations offer networking, learning, and career advancement opportunities, all of which are essential for staying current in the ever-evolving healthcare field. Joining a nursing association benefits you as an individual and contributes to the overall advancement of the nursing profession.

1. Professional Networking for Nurses

Nursing associations provide a platform for nurses to connect with colleagues, mentors, and experts in the field. Networking can lead to valuable relationships, which can be beneficial for your career growth, job opportunities, and gaining insights into different nursing specialties.

2. Continuing Education for Nurses

Many nursing associations offer educational resources, workshops, seminars, and conferences. These opportunities allow nurses to stay updated on the latest advancements in healthcare, nursing practices, and technology. You can improve your skills and knowledge through these learning opportunities, leading to career advancement.

3. Professional Development for Nurses

Nursing associations may offer certification programs, career development resources, and leadership training. These programs can help nurses enhance their qualifications, opening doors to higher-paying positions and leadership roles within healthcare organizations.

4. Advocacy and Support for Nurses

Nursing associations often advocate for the interests of nurses at local, state, and national levels. They can influence healthcare policies and promote the rights and welfare of nurses. Being a member of such an association means having a collective voice and access to support during professional challenges.

5. Community Involvement for Nurses

Being part of a nursing association often means having the opportunity to participate in community outreach and volunteer activities. Such involvement benefits the community and allows nurses to develop leadership skills and enhance their professional reputation.

Joining a nursing association is like becoming a vital cell in the bloodstream of healthcare, contributing to the overall health of individual patients and entire communities, states, and even the world.

Top Nursing Associations for Professional Development

You'll find there are more than 150 professional nursing organizations in the United States, according to Generally speaking, these organizations encourage and support their members so they can get the most out of their respective nursing careers. Here are some of the top nursing associations for professional development:

American Nurses Association (ANA)

Founded in 1896, the American Nurses Association represents the interests of our nation’s four million registered nurses, with members in all 50 states and U.S. territories. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of healthcare for all and considers itself the strongest voice for the nursing profession, from providing career development resources to lobbying Congress on issues that affect nurses.

National League for Nursing (NLN)

The National League for Nursing has been the leading organization for nurse faculty, schools of nursing, and leaders in nursing education for more than 130 years. Representing nearly 45,000 individual members and over 1,000 institutional members from LPN/LVN to doctorate educational programs, the NLN advances nursing education through professional development, research, student exam services, nurse educator certification, public policy, and community.

Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN)

Founded in 1949, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses is a national community of more than 44,000 perioperative nurses. AORN empowers nurses, healthcare organizations, and industry partners to support safe surgery for every patient, every time. The association provides access to educational resources and clinical best practices, professional development opportunities, and a support network.

Emergency Nurses Association (ENA)

Formed in 1970, the Emergency Nurses Association is the premier professional nursing association dedicated to defining the future of emergency nursing. ENA provides education, networking, and advocacy opportunities to its more than 50,000 emergency nurse members worldwide to strengthen their practice.

Nursing Organizations for Specialty Practice

Nursing is a broad, highly diverse profession with more than 100 areas of specialization. Plenty of nursing organizations are out there to support nurses seeking to deepen their expertise and make a meaningful impact in their specialized fields. Here are some of the best nursing organizations for specialty practice:

Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN)

SPN is the premier pediatric society, representing over 3,500 pediatric nurses and 28 specializations. Focused on advancing the specialty of pediatric nursing through education, research, and practice, SPN provides learning resources, news on professional trends, and networking opportunities.

Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA)

GAPNA is the premier professional organization representing advanced practice nurses, other clinicians, researchers, and educators involved in the practice or advancement of older adult care. The association provides education, leadership, advocacy, and networking opportunities for its broad spectrum of members to enhance their careers.

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)

AACN drives acute and critical care excellence for nurses, patients, and families. As the world's largest specialty nursing organization, AACN offers unwavering professional and personal support to its more than 100,000 members.

5 Basic Steps to Joining Nursing Associations

Joining a nursing association can be a valuable professional growth and development investment. While every nursing association may handle things a little differently, here are some basic steps to becoming a member of one:

1. Identify Area of Interest

Determine which nursing association aligns with your professional interests or specialization. Numerous nursing associations cater to specific areas of nursing practice, such as critical care, pediatrics, oncology, or gerontology.

2. Research the Association

Once you've identified an association(s), visit its website to learn more about its mission, membership benefits, activities, and requirements. You can also contact the association directly for more information.

3. Check the Requirements

Review the membership criteria to ensure you meet the requirements. Most nursing associations have categories for registered nurses, nurse practitioners, students, and other healthcare professionals, so choose the appropriate category.

4. Complete the Application

Typically, associations have an online application form on their website. Fill out the application form with your personal and professional information. Some associations may require you to provide proof of your nursing credentials or licensure.

5. Pay Membership Dues

Nursing associations often require members to pay annual dues. Dues vary depending on the association and your membership category (e.g., student, full member).

Alternative Professional Development Opportunities

Nursing associations aren't the only ones offering professional development for nurses. Many healthcare facilities and other organizations that employ nurses provide education and training opportunities to their staff to advance their careers within the company.

ShiftMed, for example, gives its nationwide network of more than 350,000 RNs, LPNs, and CNAs access to various training and upskilling opportunities at a reduced cost. Thanks to the company's partnership with OpusVi, ShiftMed nurses can participate in:

  • Degree programs for earning an MSN in strategic systems leadership or an MBA in healthcare.

  • Healthcare certification programs in nurse leadership, analytics, project management, and more.

  • Mini-MBA certification programs in healthcare, drug commercialization, senior living, and rural care.

Another ShiftMed partner program provides non-certified caregivers access to a free CNA training and certification program in partnership with the National Association of Healthcare Assistants (NAHCA). Accessible through the National Institute for CNA Excellence (NICE) training platform, the program provides a purpose-driven career pathway by blending online coursework with hands-on experience.

Nursing Association Conclusion

In conclusion, nursing associations are invaluable for nurses seeking professional growth. They offer networking, learning, and career advancement opportunities for staying current in the ever-evolving nursing field. Being part of an association benefits you and contributes to the overall advancement of your profession.