1. Harris, Marilyn MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN

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You have probably heard the following sentiments expressed, or perhaps voiced one of these comments yourself at some point during your lifetime, regardless of your age:


* "At church, school, work, and everywhere you go the same people get involved and the rest complain."


* "Why aren't there new people on the ballot?"


* "I don't have time to get involved."


* "There's no way I can add one more thing to my schedule."



Why is it that some individuals are leaders and joiners, and others are content to be on the sidelines? I can only answer this question for myself. In 1960, I joined the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA). After 40 years of continuous membership, I received life-time status that includes free membership. Over the ensuing years, many people have asked why I joined, and why I have remained active in my professional organizations. One reason I choose to continue to be an active participant in many personal and professional activities is the benefits I experience personally.


My original reason though was that in 1960 when I graduated from nursing school, in addition to my registered nurse license, joining the ANA and PSNA was one of several requirements for my appointment as a staff nurse. An undated personnel policy Qualifications for Appointment to Staff stated: "II E. Membership in District, State, and ANA and National League for Nursing." I continued to maintain my membership in ANA and PSNA after the initial requirement was no longer in effect, and do to this day. This original requirement resulted in a lifetime of membership in my professional organizations, personal satisfaction, and the honor of membership in what I consider to be a rewarding and respected profession.


Personnel Policy II D stated: "It is recommended that the nurse acquire a baccalaureate of science in nursing (BSN) degree approved for public health nursing within eight years." This recommendation for appointment to the staff was the initiative to begin my studies toward my BSN in 1960 that I completed in 1972 (12 years, not the recommended 8), followed by completing my master of science degree in 1976.


One important aspect of membership in any organization is that members have the opportunity and right to agree or disagree. It does not mean that anyone who is a member of a particular organization agrees with all decisions and actions all of the time. But, membership and support does indicate that there is the opportunity for good things to occur because of the commitment of many individuals to that organization, be it a trade, professional, work, or faith-based organization.


The diversity that members bring to an organization is also its strength. There is the opportunity to share individual views that represent pros and cons on a particular issue. It is important to me that I am able to voice my opinion and be heard. My memberships closely reflect my beliefs and require my commitment and support in terms of time and dollars. My professional organizations may not always make decisions with which I agree. At such times, I pick up my pen or telephone and share my opinion with the elected leaders who I helped to put in office through the voting process.


In all settings, there are, or may be, differences of opinions at the board, administration, and member levels. These diverse opinions are the basis of long and hard discussions as well as educational sessions for those involved so that positive results benefit all parties to the issue. As a member, I support goals, legislative initiatives, and activities. It is important that I can share my expertise and voice my opinion and be heard. I prefer to be on the team with an inside vantage point, with a vote that counts, rather than on the outside where I may not be able to influence the outcome through the privileges of voting and active participation.


In some ways, membership in an organization is similar to being a member of a band or orchestra. During my teenage years, I played second clarinet in my high school marching and concert bands. My individual notes did not make much sense when played alone. But, when played as one part of a whole musical score, my notes were important to the music heard by the audience. At times, any one of the orchestra members might have played a wrong note; but the band played on. At other times, everyone played the right notes at the right time. What was important was that there was a commitment on the part of all orchestra members to do their best and to uphold the name and reputation of the school.


The same is true for professional organizations. I believe the same type of participation and commitment of time, energy, and dollars are needed in all organizations. That is why I have belonged to ANA and PSNA for 57 years! I have had the opportunity to be a member of committees at national, state, and local levels that resulted in enacted legislation that benefits society, patients, and nurses. My membership in ANA offers me the opportunity to volunteer for the work group that updates the Home Health Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (ANA, 2014) on a periodic basis. Other specialty organizations to which home healthcare nurses can belong also offer opportunities to influence areas of practice. For me, active participation is one way of "paying it forward" for the many benefits I have experienced during my home healthcare nursing career.


Barbara Piskor (2017) stated "Membership in your professional organization and your industry trade association is the best way for you to obtain healthcare legislative information on a timely basis, to quickly network with other home health administrators (nurses), and to influence public policy." I encourage all home healthcare clinicians to become involved in their professional organizations-make a difference for your patients, for the health of your community, and for the good of your discipline.




American Nurses Association. (2014). Home Health Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (2nd ed.). Silver Spring, MD: Author. [Context Link]


Piskor B. (2017). Health care is politics: Get involved. In M. Harris (Ed.), Handbook of Home Health Care Administration. 6th Edition. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. [Context Link]