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Nurses: Learn Six Ways to Maximize Professional Association Memberships for Career Advancement

Professional Associations Provide Opportunities for Continuing Education, Personal and Professional Development, Visibility, Support, and Access to Industry Leaders

AURORA, Colo. – June 6, 2017 – Professional associations are a valuable resource for nurses who are students, recent graduates, or career-building professionals to advance their careers, according to American Sentinel University’s career coach.

“This is especially the case if the nurse is a student,” says Kim Dority, career coach at American Sentinel University, an accredited healthcare-focused online university offering nursing degree programs. “Professional associations like the ones for nurses, paralegals, web developers, and other disciplines need a steady stream of new members to engage, volunteer, contribute knowledge, and assume leadership roles.”

To encourage students to consider joining, she says most professional associations offer steeply discounted membership rates, and many also sponsor student chapters at colleges and universities.

Association benefits

“But even if you’re no longer a student, associations can help you reach all sorts of goals essential to growing and advancing your career,” she says.

Dority discusses six ways nurses can maximize professional associations for career advancement.

1.    Networking. When nurses join associations, they often have the option to become part of the local professional chapter (and the local student chapter if the nurse is a student), a regionally-based chapter whose membership is often drawn from practitioners who might be potential sources of information, opportunities, and jobs. “This is an easy and often highly enjoyable way to meet a significant number of the local professionals in your field,” says Dority.

2.    Brand- or reputation-building. She urges nurses to take a leadership role with the local chapter to practice and demonstrate a critical skill. “Serving as a terrific volunteer or committee member easily connects you with new people and impresses them with your collaborative personal skills,” she adds.

Dority says this will deliver two benefits for nurses:

  1. It will demonstrate to potential hiring managers that you see yourself as a professional who takes his or her ability to contribute seriously (especially important for students).
  2. It will impress fellow volunteers and committee members with your reliability, commitment, and professionalism, which will make them much more willing to put their reputations on the line to help you land a job.

3.    Career insights. Most professional associations provide substantial information for their members about such things as potential career paths, salary trends, issues in the profession, hiring statistics, and more.

Also, associations frequently have online discussion groups (which nurses have access to) whose topics and responses will provide real-life insights into careers in a chosen field.

“And by participating in your local chapter, you’ll have an opportunity to experience what it would be like to work with your fellow members,” says Dority. “This gives you the chance to see if they seem to enjoy their careers so you can decide if these are people you’d especially like to work with in the future.”

4.    Job postings. Job listings are a common feature among professional associations. Even if a nurse is not looking for a job right now, checking out the available jobs will give him or her a real sense of what skills are in demand and who’s hiring for what positions.

“Job postings are one of the fastest ways to identify whether there may be some unanticipated skills nurses want to master before they graduate or, for nurses who have already graduated, they may want to go back to pick up,” adds Dority.

5.    Professional development. Almost every nursing student can use help with tuition payments, and many professional associations offer scholarships to student members. The amounts usually aren’t huge, but every little bit counts.

“If you’ve already graduated, explore the webinars, workshops, online discussions, and other professional development opportunities and resources many professional associations offer, often for little or no cost,” she says.

6.    Conferences. Attending association conferences as a student can help nurses see their future career “in action” – what the people are like, what topics are being discussed, what areas intrigue nurses, and where they see themselves contributing. Many professional associations (as well as their local chapters) offer conference scholarships to students in return for some volunteer work at the conference.

“If you can’t attend the conference, I recommend nurses at least research the online program to think through these questions. And if you can go, take business cards and connect with as many people as possible.”
If a nurse has already graduated, then conferences provide an opportunity to get visible by presenting or being on a panel, moderating a group discussion, or volunteering with some aspect of the conference logistics.

It’s important for nurses to line up a few appointments with online friends to finally meet face-to-face, attend presentations of interest and then follow up with the speakers, and of course, always have business cards on hand.

To maximize those benefits as a student

Dority says to make the most of your association memberships, nurses should make sure to note those memberships in their LinkedIn profile to demonstrate the seriousness of their professional commitment. “Be sure to join the association’s LinkedIn and/or Facebook group and become an active participant,” she adds.

Last but not least, Dority urges nursing students to remember to renew their association membership at the student rate the day before they graduate.

“Professional associations provide excellent opportunities for continuing education, personal and professional development, visibility, support, and access to industry leaders and with any association membership. But always remember, like so much of life, nurses will get out of it what they put into it,” she adds.

Check out American Sentinel University’s nursing professional series blog for more tips.

About American Sentinel University

American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited online nursing degree programs in nursing, informatics, MBA Health Care, DNP Executive Leadership and DNP Educational Leadership. Its affordable, flexible bachelor’s and master’s nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission for the Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The DNP program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The university is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The Accrediting Commission of DEAC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.