I recently celebrated my 25th anniversary as a member of my professional nursing organization, the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). I joined the ONS not long after I selected oncology as my nursing specialty because I believe that membership in a professional nursing organization is one of the marks of a true professional. For the past 18 years, I've been volunteering for the ONS at both the local and national levels.
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The benefits of joining a specialty organization vary, but may include a subscription to the organization's publication, networking opportunities, and specialty certification. However, membership offers rewards far beyond those listed in the organization's brochure.
One of the biggest bonuses to membership is the opportunity to participate in volunteer activities. These not only benefit the organization, but also help you grow professionally and personally. Depending on the activity, you can sharpen your skills in organization, priority setting, writing for publication, research, and public speaking. You'll also build relationships with others who share your interests and commitment to excellence. As you acquire new patient-care skills and polish your reputation, you help advance the nursing profession as well.
Don't think you have time to take on anything new? I urge you to reconsider. Time commitments for volunteer activities vary widely and needn't be burdensome. For example, you might sign up for a task force that will complete its work in a few days or even hours. If you have more time to spare, consider running for the local chapter's board of directors. Professional nursing organizations recognize that you have only a limited amount of free time for volunteer activities and appreciate whatever time you can give them.
Calls for volunteer activities may arrive via e-mail, be posted on the organization's Web site, or appear in one of its publications. You may be asked to provide a current resume and complete an application form that asks about your strengths, interests, and prior experience.
If you don't hear from the organization right away, don't be discouraged. Your talents may not be needed at the moment, but you could get a call in the future. In the meantime, keep on filling out those applications to demonstrate your commitment to volunteering.
Why not get started today? Check your specialty organization's Web site for volunteer applications and fill one out. You have nothing to lose and much to gain from participation at the local or national level in your professional nursing organization.
Jeanne Held-Warmkessel, RN, ACNS-BC, AOCN, MSN
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pa.