Medical Field Associations

When you see that your doctor or nurse practitioner is a member of a professional organization, what does that mean exactly? Why is it important that health care professionals announce their membership in these associations? Membership in professional organizations is notable for a number of reasons, the most important of which is improved patient care. Becoming a member of a professional organization puts those working in medical field careers in contact with similar practitioners from around the country - and the world - which means a doctor can learn how to improve health care delivery to his or her patients.

It's a good idea to become a member of a parent organization like the American Nurses Association or the American Medical Association for doctors, but it's also smart to join smaller organizations more attuned to your specialty. For example, all nurses should consider joining the ANA (American Nurses Association) but those working in maternity or labor and delivery might want to think about joining AWHONN (Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses). This latter association addresses the needs, concerns, and interests of those specifically working in women's health. Health care providers should also consider joining a local medical association - one that addresses the particular needs of his or her community. Doing this shows dedication to the community and the people living in it, and brings to light any specific problems like environmental issues that may be harming the health of the community.

Membership in a professional organization provides additional resources to a health care practitioner. It allows members to convene and share ideas and information regarding the latest in medical news. When members meet at conferences, they're able to share how they're approaching health care where they live. Someone from California might share an idea or way of doing something that doctors in New York haven't tried yet, or vice versa. Professional membership provides opportunities for professional growth and development. These organizations routinely offer continuing education credits on topics pertinent to their members to keep them abreast of the latest trends, developments, and innovations in medicine.

Becoming a member in a professional association informs members about sociopolitical issues affecting them, their patients, and their practice. Being aware of federal, state, and local legislation that may affect how they practice helps doctors and nurses better advocate for their patients. It may also impel health care practitioners to “join the cause" and take action on more serious matters, and stand up for patients' rights. Medical Field Associations

Professional membership also says to patients that their doctor or nurse is a committed member of their profession. It says he or she takes their career seriously, that he or she actively participates in improving his or her knowledge base, and that he or she is involved in something greater than his or her everyday job. The American Nurses Association (ANA) states the importance of professional membership elegantly on their Web site: “The ANA works to develop policies, set standards, advocate in government and private settings, provide education, maintain the Code of Ethics for Nurses and shape the future of the profession."

Most professional memberships require members to pay annual dues that go toward different areas in different organizations, but much of which is applied to educating members and the public. The American Medical Association (AMA) has a range of dues - cheaper for students and residents to encourage them to join the AMA, and more for experienced practitioners ($420 for an annual regular membership). The American Nurses Association is a bit different in that when a nurse joins the ANA, membership in her state's nursing association is included in membership cost, so dues vary from state to state. Members of professional organizations usually receive the group's publication (if they have one), which helps keep members informed of the latest happenings.

Strongly consider becoming a member of your professional organization. You and your patients will benefit in the long run.

Last Updated: 05/21/2014

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