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Professional Nursing Organizations 101: What to Consider Before You Join

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With so many professional nursing associations to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you? Below are lists of the top nursing organizations in the U.S., broken down by the following categories:

  • National
  • State
  • Nursing Specialty
  • Student Nurses

Use this guide to figure out which organizations to join and how to pick the right one (or more) for your current career phase.

Why Join a Professional Nursing Organization?

There are many reasons to join an association of peers. Most nurses find value in belonging to professional organizations because it allows you to:

  • Demonstrate excellence. Joining a professional organization is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to the field. Add it to your résumé and any other professional profiles you may have as a way to show employers and colleagues that you're dedicated to professional excellence.
  • Find mentors. Associations are great places to find mentors who can help you advance your career. Whether you need help navigating a tricky work problem or want advice on whether to buy supplemental nurse malpractice insurance, your mentor will be there to guide you on your journey and help you get the answers you need.
  • Continue your education. These groups will often give you access to all of the conferences, classes, and publications you’ll need to continue to grow as a professional.
  • Build a community. Joining a top nursing association presents you with natural opportunities to network within your industry or specialty.
  • Shape policy. Many organizations encourage their members to get involved in healthcare advocacy and provide them with the resources and support they need to make a difference at a local, state, or even national level.

Tips for Finding the Right Professional Nursing Organization for You

With so many options to consider, choosing the right professional organization to join can seem daunting. But don’t fret—here are five questions to help you compare them:

  1. Which benefits are most important to you?
    Define the current need that you’re looking to meet by joining an organization. Are you looking for more networking opportunities? More learning? More discounts? Look for organizations that offer the breadth of resources you need.
  2. How large a network do you want?
    In terms of reach, do you want to network on a more local or specialty-focused level? Or are you looking more for national opportunities?
  3. How specific do you want to get?
    There are organizations that focus on every specialty and interest. Is this more—or less—appealing to you than a general nursing focus?
  4. Do you know any members?
    There’s no easier way to find out if an organization is right for you than by getting reviews from people you know and trust.
  5. Is it worth the price tag?
    You should also consider crossing organizations off your list if they're too expensive for long-term membership.

The Four National Nursing Organizations You Need to Know About

These groups don’t focus on any one nursing specialty; instead, they offer a variety of professional development activities, services, and resources to a wide range of nursing professionals. (It’s worth noting that the majority require you to be a licensed RN in order to become a member.)

Below, you’ll find a list of the four most popular national professional nursing organizations. We’ve provided you with a brief description of what they do, the membership options they offer, the benefits that are included, and—when available—the membership costs.

American Nurses Association (ANA)

  • Description: The ANA offers education, conferences, and networking opportunities for licensed RNs. It’s important to note that ANA membership isn’t available to nursing students and non-RNs. However, professionals who are not licensed RNs may become an ANA Subscriber and access members-only information at a discounted rate. Additionally, students may become ANA Student Subscribers and have access to industry-related resources and educational information. The ANA has three different types of membership options:

    • "ANA & State Membership": The ANA considers this to be their "gold standard" membership.
    • "ANA Only Limited Membership": This membership option gives you access to the standard ANA benefits, but without the state benefits.
    • "ANA E-Membership": This is the ANA's most basic membership option.
  • Benefits:

    • “ANA & State Membership” Benefits
      • You’re entitled to benefits from both the ANA and your state association.
      • ANA benefits include: Professional development opportunities; a chance to influence nursing-related decisions and policies at state and national levels; discounts for programs through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
      • State benefits may include: Subscription to state association newsletter. Representation in the state house on critical nursing issues. Access to local networking opportunities. Professional development opportunities.
    • “ANA Only Limited Membership - Without State” Benefits
      • You’re entitled to the standard ANA benefits: Professional development opportunities; a chance to influence nursing-related decisions and policies at state and national levels; discounts for programs through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
      • This membership option is only available in 19 states and Washington, D.C.
    • “ANA E-Membership - Most Basic Option” Benefits
      • You have a virtual membership to the ANA. You’re entitled to some benefits of the ANA, including discounts to resources (but doesn’t include discounts for ANCC certification programs).
      • This membership option is only available in 25 states, as well as Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C.
  • Cost: Varies by state.

International Council of Nurses (ICN)

  • Description: Focuses on advocacy, policy development, and networking. Rather than individual nurse members, it has more than 130 national nurses' association members. No individual nurse membership. American nurses who become members of the ANA are automatically a member of ICN.

  • Benefits: You gain access to highly specialized networks and conferences, as well as opportunity to get involved in advocacy work at an international level.

  • Cost: N/A

NANDA International

  • Description: This organization is dedicated to “facilitating the development, refinement, dissemination, and use of standardized nursing diagnostic terminology.” It offers four different options for membership:

    • "Regular Membership": Available to those who meet the U.S. requirements for professional nursing licensure.
    • "Student Membership": Available ONLY to matriculating undergraduate students. (Status must be verified by NANDA International.) Limited to three years.
    • "Retired Membership": Available to retired nurses.
    • "Associate Membership": Available to vendors and organizations related to nursing education, practice, research, or representation.
  • Benefits:

    • "Regular Membership" Benefits
      • With this membership option, you're able to vote, hold office, and serve on NANDA-I committees.
      • You'll also receive all membership benefits, including free online access to the International Journal of Nursing Knowledge publication.
    • "Student Membership" Benefits
      • With this membership option, you can participate in many association-related activities, but you aren't able to vote, hold office within the association, or serve on committees.
      • Once your three years are up, you have the option to renew as a regular member (if eligible).
    • "Retired Membership" Benefits
      • With this membership option, you're able to vote, hold office, and serve on committees.
    • "Associate Membership" Benefits
      • Similar to the Student Membership, you may participate in many association-related activities, but can’t vote, hold office, or serve on committees.
  • Cost:

    • "Regular Membership": $125 for two years
    • "Student Membership": $45/year
    • "Retired Membership": $90 for two years
    • "Associate Membership": $150/year

National League for Nursing (NLN)

  • Description: This organization gives nurse educators access to networking, education, and advocacy opportunities. The NLN offers three types of memberships:

    • "Individual Membership": Available to nurse educators, graduate students, and retired nurse educators. This particular membership option is broken out into three sub-categories: "Regular Individuals" (i.e., open to all nurses, educators, administrators, and any other individuals dedicated to promoting nursing education excellence); "Graduate Students" (i.e., open to students currently enrolled in masters and doctoral programs); and "Retired" (i.e., open to retired nurses, educators, administrators, etc., who want to stay involved in nursing education).
    • "School of Nursing Membership": Available to organizations that offer educational programs in nursing.
    • "Associate Membership": Available to nursing associations, health care agencies, and other organizations "interested in the development of an educated nursing workforce."
  • Benefits:

    • "Individual Membership" Benefits
      • With this membership option, you'll be eligible for discounts for a variety of NLN-associated activities and resources, including: Tickets to the NLN’s annual conference, "Education Summit," and to the Scholarly Writing Retreat; leadership programming; Simulation Innovation Resource Center courses; student exam products and resources; faculty development webinars; and the NLN bookstore.
      • You'll receive free subscriptions to The NLN Report and Nursing Education Perspectives, as well as to the NLN's four e-newsletters and access to its data.
      • You'll have access to invaluable networking opportunities.
      • If you're interested in getting involved in more advocacy-related initiatives, you'll be able to engage in nursing-related policy matters through the Government Affairs Action Center.
      • You'll also have the opportunity to serve on different NLN committees and vote.
    • "School of Nursing Membership" Benefits
      • With this membership option, both full- and part-time faculty receive all of the individual benefits listed above.
      • Faculty will get a discount on the NLN's certified nurse educator exam.
      • Faculty will receive free subscriptions to the NLN Report and Nursing Education Perspectives publications.Faculty will have access to data, grants, professional development opportunities, and scholarships through the NLN Foundation.
      • Faculty are eligible to apply for fellowships in the Academy of Nursing Education.
      • Your school will be eligible to become an NLN Center for Excellence.
    • "Associate Membership" Benefits
      • With this membership option, you'll receive two free individual memberships per site.
      • You'll receive free subscriptions to the two NLN publications, in addition to its four e-newsletters.
      • You'll be eligible for various discounts at NLN meetings, as well as for different products and resources.
      • You'll also have access to NLN data on nursing schools, program enrollments, etc.
  • Cost:

    • "Individual Membership" Options
      • “Regular Individual”: $150 for one year or $275 for two years.
      • Graduate Student: $80 for one year.
      • Retiree: $100 for one year or $180 for two years.
    • "School of Nursing Membership" Options
      • Single-Site Campus:
        • 0-50 graduates: $1,177/year
        • 51-100 graduates: $1,455/year
        • 101+ graduates: $1,730/year
      • Multi-Site Campus
        • Base Campus Fee: $1,730/year
        • Per Additional Campus: $360/year
    • "Associate Membership" Options
      • Primary Site: $550/year
      • Each Additional Site: $200/year

The Top Professional Nursing Organizations by State

Below, you’ll find the full list of the top nursing association for each state. All but two states (Alaska and Hawaii) have an association that’s a constituent member association of the ANA.

West Midwest South Northeast
Alaska Illinois Alabama Connecticut
Arizona Indiana Arkansas Maine
California Iowa Delaware Massachusetts
Colorado Kansas Florida New Hampshire
Hawaii Michigan Georgia New Jersey
Idaho Minnesota Kentucky New York
Montana Missouri Louisiana Pennsylvania
Nevada Nebraska Maryland Rhode Island
New Mexico North Dakota Mississippi Vermont
Oregon Ohio North Carolina
Utah South Dakota Oklahoma
Washington Wisconsin South Carolina
Wyoming Tennessee
West Virginia

The Top Professional Nursing Organizations by Specialty

Your options for professional organizations and associations only get more numerous as you get down to the specialty level. Below is a list of nursing specialty organizations, along with links to their websites so you can learn more.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. However, it will give you a taste of just how many specialty organizations are out there. You’re bound to find the one that best fits your professional interests.

Professional Organizations for Student Nurses to Join

If you’re a nursing student, you may want a community and resources designed for your specific needs. Check out six of the most well-known professional nursing organizations that welcome student members. The list also includes several of the larger national organizations we mentioned above.

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Last updated on May 05, 2021.

Originally published on Jul 11, 2018.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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