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Despite its many rewards, nursing can be a challenging field. Shift-based work can put pressure on healthcare professionals’ work-life balance, and emotionally demanding scenarios are more common in this sector than in many others.

For this reason, it is vital for nurses to have somewhere to turn for help, advice, support, and advocacy. This is where nursing associations and related organizations come in.

This article will examine the work of these bodies and discuss the ways they make a huge positive difference to the day-to-day duties – and wider careers – of nurses in the US.

What is a nursing association?

Nursing associations have existed since the late 19th century. They focus on the support and development of workers within the field of nursing – both personal and professional. They are also devoted to the furtherment and progress of the entire sector.

These organizations work hard to stay abreast of current and developing practices in areas such as patient care. They operate alongside regulatory bodies, and make sure nurses in all disciplines have access to the right tools and resources. They also present opportunities for career progression and offer advice and guidance to professionals. Finally, representatives of nursing associations may advocate for the rights of their members too.

The difference between a nursing association and a nurses’ union

Unlike unions, nursing associations represent all nurses, not just individuals who have applied for a membership. Nursing associations do not typically focus on employee/employer relations, although they may provide support to professionals who are facing challenges in their workplace.

Both nursing associations and unions hold regular meetings, although attendance is not mandatory, and employees within the field may choose to participate as much or as little as they prefer.

Nursing associations tend to operate state-wide, so nurses practicing within a certain region are recommended to seek out the relevant organization for their locality. This will ensure that the messaging they receive is relevant to the healthcare policy in their state.

When might nurses need the support of a nursing association?

There are many benefits to membership in a nursing association, including staying current on new developments, networking opportunities, access to resources, and more.

Staying up to date with developments in the field

The best nurses are those who continue to educate themselves on the progress of the wider medical industry as well as their specific field of practice. Nursing associations often share updates and news about cutting-edge approaches and processes, helping their members maintain current knowledge.

Networking and career furtherment

Many nursing associations offer both online and in-person opportunities to connect with specialists in all disciplines. This provides nurses with much-needed links, mentorships, and inside information to help them progress. They may also share employment openings, training resources, and other tools that are vital to professionals hoping to take the next step in their careers.

Access to affordable resources

Members of certain nursing associations may receive discounts on certain tools and resources, helping them to reduce their expenditure while striving to offer the very best in patient care.

Personal support

Whether via the provision of suitable signposting, the sharing of information about self-care, the circulation of advice, or any other method, nursing associations are equipped to support their members. This support can ensure they remain physically and mentally well.

Staff and patient advocacy

One of the main benefits of nursing associations is their advocating for nurses of all disciplines and qualification levels, as well as their patients. But what exactly does this mean? Simply put, advocacy is the act of recommending or voicing support for certain policies, procedures, practices, or changes within a particular field. This means that nursing association advocates often work alongside federal lawmakers to ensure that priority legislation related to nursing is examined or passed. These advocates also regularly monitor and make recommendations regarding state-wide legislation.

Furthermore, they may also help nurses to advocate for their own patients – pushing to have a certain course of treatment approved by the hospital or state in which they are stationed.

Nursing specialisms

Nurses from all disciplines can be represented and supported by nursing associations. Here are some of the main nursing specialties and their typical duties.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

This is an entry-level role within the field of nursing. CNAs are tasked with providing basic care to patients, including feeding and bathing them, as well as moving them between locations. A CNA may also be tasked with recording patient information and stocking supplies.

To become a CNA, a candidate must be a high school graduate (or hold a GED), complete the requisite number of clinical and classroom hours as part of a nursing assistant program. Finally, they must pass a CNA certification exam.

Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

The terms LVN and LPN can be used to refer to the same role. After graduating high school or getting their GED, an LVN or LPN candidate must complete a relevant accredited nursing program, which is usually a year long. Next, they need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to gain their license.

Once their training is complete, they will be qualified to provide basic medical care to patients, undertaking tasks like inserting catheters, checking blood pressure, treating wounds, and changing dressings. They may also be required to bathe, dress, and feed patients, discuss methods of care with patients, keep records and report to RNs and doctors, and supervise other LVNs/LPNs and unlicensed staff members.

Registered Nurse (RN)

To become an RN, it is usually best for candidates to complete a few years of college with relevant majors before applying to an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program or an approved nursing diploma. RNs must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and become licensed to practice in their state.

Once qualified, an RN may be tasked with the management of patient care. As part of this, they may be required to:

  • Record medical histories.
  • Administer treatments and medication.
  • Assist in the creation of care plans.
  • Use and monitor specialist equipment.
  • Provide post-treatment care.
  • Inform and advise patients, their families, and carers about the management of conditions.
  • Work alongside other RNs, doctors, and additional medical specialists.

Many RNs move on to become nursing supervisors. This role involves the creation of schedules for nursing staff, treatment planning, the development and management of budgets, and the overseeing of other team members, including their training.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

There are numerous different types of NP, including:

  • Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNPs)
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs)
  • Adult–Gerontology Nurse Practitioners (AGNPs)
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs)
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners (WHNPs)

Nurse practitioners must already hold RN qualifications, along with a BSN. They are then required to complete a relevant master’s degree or a doctoral nursing program at university. Finally, they must pass a NP board certification exam.

NPs are qualified to assess patients and diagnose conditions as well as order and interpret tests. They may also prescribe treatments and medications. The specifics of this role vary between states and often between hospitals.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

CNS specialists are often in managerial positions. As well as sharing many duties with NPs, a CNS may also be consulted by other members of nursing staff. Additionally, they can work in policy development and management. In many cases, a CNS might help to develop and implement new healthcare procedures and delivery systems.

To become a CNS, candidates must complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and pass a CNS certification examination.

Nurse educator

The role of a nurse educator reflects its name. These specialists are tasked with the training of other nurses at places of education and in clinical and hospital environments.

To become a nurse educator, candidates must have a BSN and at least two years’ worth of clinical experience. Many employers also require nurse educators to have an MSN, and sometimes a post-master’s certificate in nursing education.

Nursing administrator

Nursing administrators usually manage operations within a nursing team. As well as ensuring compliance with federal and state policy, they may help to develop, implement, and administer procedures within a hospital or other healthcare center.

The qualifications to become a nursing administrator are similar to those of a nurse educator. However, after becoming an RN, they may complete an RN-to-MSN leadership and management program. If they already have an MSN, they may choose to undertake a post-master’s certificate in nursing leadership and management.

ABSNs, BSNs, and their duties

For many of the roles outlined above, qualifications such as ABSNs and BSNs are required. So, exactly what is the difference between an ABSN and BSN? At Marymount University, students can take an ABSN course. As explored below, this is a great choice for already qualified nurses to attain a BSN in an accelerated timeframe. The course at Marymount University can be completed in just 16 months, largely online, and provides clinical placement support.


An Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) is a way to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) quickly. Usually, these courses are BSNs condensed into 12, 16 or 24 months in total, but covering the same ground and maintaining the same quality.

To this end, they are intense courses that are suitable for candidates prepared for full-time learning. They are perfect for those who already have a certain number of college credits or a degree in a non-nursing field.


Unlike an ABSN, BSN courses typically take four years to complete. Candidates are only required to have a high school diploma to enroll. This may be the better choice for future nurses who wish to work while they study.

The future of nursing associations

The future of nursing associations holds great promise as the healthcare landscape continues to evolve. These professional organizations, representing the collective voice of nurses, are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of healthcare. With growing recognition of nurses as central figures in patient care and healthcare decision-making, nursing associations will likely become even more influential.

In the coming years, nursing associations are expected to focus on advocating for the profession, addressing healthcare disparities, and championing issues related to patient safety and quality care. As technology continues to advance, nursing associations may also play a role in ensuring that nurses are well-prepared to embrace new healthcare technologies and data-driven practices. Moreover, with nursing’s increasing role in healthcare leadership, these associations are likely to become more engaged in shaping healthcare policy, education, and research, contributing significantly to the future of healthcare.

Advocating for change

Nursing continues to be a very attractive field of employment thanks to its many personal rewards, employment opportunities and competitive rates of pay.

However, new challenges to the US medical sector continue to arise, due in part to the country’s aging population, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and delicate changes in the socio-political attitude to healthcare.

Becoming a member of a nursing association will enable nurses to progress within their field, develop and maintain current specialist knowledge and network with relevant parties, all while benefiting from the support and advocacy of an established and respected organization. With nursing associations standing behind them, nurses can feel empowered, supported and protected as they progress in the field.