Why Professional Nursing Organizations Are Important
As a current or aspiring nurse, you have made it your mission to provide life-changing services for patients who rely on your expertise and compassion. Your work is rewarding yet challenging. Thankfully, you enjoy ample support in the form of professional nursing organizations.
These associations are committed to your best interests as a health care worker. They provide individual support by way of continuing education and scholarships, but that is only the beginning. At the public level, they are responsible for promoting and enacting policies that benefit millions of nurses and their patients.
According to Nurse.org, there are over 150 nursing organizations to choose from. Despite the seemingly exhaustive list of nursing organizations, it helps aspiring and current nurses alike to know which resources are available and whether certain associations can give them a professional boost as they climb the health care career ladder. As such, we have compiled a list of the most influential organizations for nurses and nursing students.
American Nurses Association (ANA)
When many people think of nursing organizations, they picture the American Nurses Association (ANA). Committed to the best interests of US registered nurses, ANA aims to promote the rights and general welfare of health care workers. Currently, the organization serves as a valuable ally to over 4 million hardworking nurses throughout the nation.
ANA’s subsidiary organizations include the American Academy of Nursing, the American Nurses Foundation, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center. These groups focus on decidedly different objectives, but all play a crucial role in promoting both excellence in nursing practice and proper treatment of nurses.
American Academy of Nursing
As mentioned, the American Academy of Nursing is an important subsidiary of the American Nurses Association. Dedicated to advancing health policy, the academy empowers its 2,800 members (typically referred to as Fellows) to create a variety of evidence-based health initiatives. A majority of these Fellows have completed doctoral degrees with many also holding prestigious positions as hospital chief executives, university chancellors, and federal political appointees.
International Council of Nurses
As the first international federation developed exclusively for health care professionals, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has achieved an impressive level of influence since it was founded in 1899. This unique group currently consists of over 130 national nurses’ associations (NNAs). Together, these represent over 20 million nurses who live and work all around the world. Additionally, ICN regularly collaborates with the World Bank and the World Health Organization.
National League for Nursing (NLN)
As the oldest association for nursing education in the United States, the National League for Nursing (NLN) provides a range of development opportunities for faculty nurses. The organization began in 1893 as the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses. It was renamed to the National League for Nursing Education (NLNE) a few decades later and eventually joined with several influential associations to reach its current iteration.
Dedicated to professional development and public policy, NLN delivers a range of valuable services and opportunities to 40,000 individual members, and 1,200 organizations are recognized as institutional members.
Emergency Nursing Association (ENA)
Dedicated to issues involving emergency care, the Emergency Nursing Association (ENA) played a key role in developing the Board of Certification in Emergency Nursing. The association has also published a variety of practice resources, such as the evidence-based Clinical Practice Guidelines. ENA also publishes the peer-reviewed Journal of Emergency Nursing.
The over 43,000 members of the ENA boast extensive knowledge of and experience with triage care and disaster preparedness. While their elite skills would not be possible without their obvious passion for the field of emergency nursing, ENA’s guidance and resources also deserve credit.
Many people are surprised to learn that this honor society is the second-largest nursing organization in the world. It was originally known as Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. Founded in Indianapolis in 1922, the organization was named for Greek terms that translate to love, courage, and honor. While its name has since been changed to simply Sigma, the original values remain key to the association to this day.
Currently, over 135,000 members from 100 countries are proud to maintain membership with Sigma. Many have earned their Master of Science in Nursing, with over half holding staff positions. These members enjoy access to a wealth of resources via the Sigma Repository. Additionally, members can take advantage of think tanks and mentorship programs.
The American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS)
Committed to the long-term development of targeted nursing skills and knowledge, the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) consists of a wide range of member organizations. Together, these associations represent nearly 930,000 registered nurses who work in a variety of settings all around the world.
ABNS highlights the importance of accreditation in the interest of delivering the best possible patient outcomes. Its accreditation is developed according to the most relevant peer-reviewed research—and with the evolving needs of patients in mind.
National Student Nurses Association (NSNA)
The promise of nursing’s future can be seen in the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA), which provides mentorship opportunities for students hoping to achieve licensure as registered nurses. NSNA also welcomes those enrolled in RN to bachelor of science in nursing programs.
Through their involvement with NSNA, hardworking students gain access to Imprint—a highly regarded magazine that covers career planning, nursing specialties, and other topics of interest to aspiring nurses. Members also receive significant discounts on a variety of study resources, as well as exciting scholarship opportunities.
Association of Nursing Professional Development (ANPD)
The Association of Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) centers on the premise that a nurse’s education is never truly complete. The industry is constantly moving forward—and to best serve their patients, nurses must as well. This is achieved through professional development, which is both defined and promoted by ANPD.
This organization serves professionals who handle several aspects of professional development. Members work as skills validators, academic partners, and even mentors. All play a key role in ensuring that both individual nurses and the profession at large continue to advance.
AFT Nurses and Health Professionals
AFT Nurses and Health Professionals stands out among nursing associations in that it is part of the larger American Federation of Teachers. This division of AFT was once known as the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. Today, however, the division represents nearly 200,000 medical professionals. Over half of its members are registered nurses, but several other types of health care workers are also covered, such as dietitians, X-ray technicians, and medical researchers.
The goal of AFT Nurses and Health Professionals is ambitious: reshape the health care industry to better meet the needs of employees, patients, and the public at large. The organization is accredited by American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation to provide continuing education for nurses. It also hosts annual professional issues conferences.
State Nursing Associations
While the associations highlighted above operate at the national or international level, nurses and nurse leaders also can benefit greatly from getting involved in state and local nursing associations. Many of these fall under the umbrella of parent organizations developed at the national or international levels. Others are specifically designed to reflect the realities of working in targeted regions or within a particular nursing specialty. Examples include:
- Nursing Students’ Association of New York State
- Colorado Society of Advanced Practice Nurses
- PAs and NPs of the Florida Keys
- South Carolina Nurses Coalition
- Texas Clinical Nurse Specialists
- Connecticut Nurses Association
No matter which nursing organizations you ultimately join, you will appreciate the personal support and public advocacy these groups provide. Take your time to get acquainted with the many offerings available at the state, national, and international level. You will never regret joining a community of equally passionate nurses or nurse practitioners.
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