For most of my career as a nurse and an administrator and now as a consultant, I've participated in many of the professional associations that serve those of us in the outpatient surgery industry. This has benefited my career in profound ways, from the educational opportunities I've had to the leadership skills I've developed to the friendships I've made.
- Educational opportunities. Thanks to belonging to associations, I've had access to continuing education seminars, journal articles and interactive discussion groups and list serves.
- Leadership skills. I've had the opportunity to meet and work with national industry leaders and become more business savvy and politically aware. I've been able to keep on top of the latest accreditation standards and shifts in the regulatory and political climates. I've also run for office and obtained local, state and, later, national posts and chairpersonships.
- Lasting friendships. On a more personal and intangible level, I've found that trade organization membership promotes greater camaraderie and professionalism. It's opened my eyes to effective policies and procedures implemented at other facilities - not to mention exchanging problem-solving ideas with my colleagues.
A group for every interest
"The meetings are too far away." "There's no benefit to my job."
Those are the two most popular reasons not to join professional organizations. Don't buy into it (see "Eliminating the Excuses" below).
Many association meetings are held within reasonable driving distance of most surgical facilities. Even if you can't travel to attend a national meeting, most local and/or state chapters of professional (such as the ANA) and industry organizations (such AAASC or FASA) hold meetings in a central location.
No matter your job title or facility niche, there's an organization tailored to your needs. For instance, just as orthopedic surgeons have the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) and anesthesiologists the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), once you find your place in outpatient surgery, you should seek out specialty-specific organizations such as American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses (ASORN), Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) or American Society of Perianesthesia Nurses (ASPAN), or participate in specialty-related programs offered by larger organizations (such as Association of peri-Operative Registered Nurses [AORN], which is geared toward all perioperative nurses). Meanwhile, surgical technologists also have active organizations, and your techs should be encouraged to participate.
Lead by example
It's easy to go to work every day, put in your eight hours, then head home. But work is a lot more than punching a clock. Participating in professional associations certainly requires extra effort but helps you and your employees become more fulfilled in and committed to your jobs.
As the administrator, you must practice what you preach. I often hear from nurses that their managers expect them to join and be active, yet the managers don't participate in their own organizations. Nurses who see the administrator participate actively are more likely to follow suit. Just as importantly, administrators and employees who participate in their local, state and national associations recognize tangible benefits that can be put right in practice.
Let me leave you with a great idea: Reward staff members with paid airfare, lodging and registration at the national meetings. Do so on a rotating basis so you can reward staff members - as well as yourself - with the opportunity to take a break from the facility to go meet colleagues from around the country, gain some CE credits and hear some well-known keynote speakers to boot.