Busy nurses dont always seek out professional organizations or groups dedicated to nursing, and for valid reasons. They need more time or energy to devote to a group, the meetings are inconvenient, or they see it as an extension of work. However, joining a nursing community is one of the most powerful personal and career moves a nurse can make.why-finding-a-nursing-community-is-important

“The importance of community is relevant to nurses at all levels of their careers,” says Gloria E. Barrera, MSN, RN, PEL-CSN, a public health nurse who practices as a school nurse at a high school outside of Chicago. “The sense of community is a unifying force that fosters professional growth and enhances the overall impact of nursing practice.” 

For nurses identifying with a particular group, such as a minority nurse or a nursing specialty, being part of a community of nurses is validating. “The best advice that I was given was to join a professional nursing organization and then to join my specialty nursing organization,” says Barrera, who holds longtime membership in the American Nurses Association (where she is now the Executive Member of the Board) and the National Association of School Nurses.

Having a community that shares your experience, whether personal or professional, is vital to a sense of belonging in a group. “As a Latina nurse, it was important for me to join a professional organization that authentically represents the diversity of my community,” says Barrera. “We can’t be what we can’t see! Once we see others who look like us succeeding in their respective roles, it gives us a blueprint to continue on our journeys.”

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Joining a group is excellent, but what happens if nothing fits what you’re looking for? For Danielle McCamey, DNP, CRNP, ACNP-BC, FCCP, starting a group was the answer. McCamey, founder, president, and CEO of DNPs of Color, started the organization several years ago. “I was trying to find that community when I was going through my doctoral program,” she says. Finding nothing that could offer support with a similar lived experience that McCamey had, she decided to create it. 

There is a shared language and a shared understanding that’s essential when you gather with other nurses. “A community helps offer you that validation you need,” says McCamey. “There is always someone who can say, ‘Here are some strategies to help you navigate that.’”

Joining a community offers opportunities and benefits that aren’t always obvious.” When looking at nurses from underprivileged backgrounds, the connections within a nursing community, especially through local chapters of professional organizations, can be most impactful,” says Barrera. “It gives these nurses access to financial resources, for example, scholarships, mentorship programs, and networking opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be afforded them.”

And a nursing community where you feel a good fit is different. “We must develop a sense of belonging and support,” says Olga F. Jarrín, PhD, RN, FAAN, Hunterdon Professor of Nursing Research and Associate Professor, Division of Nursing Science at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and Adjunct Assistant Professor, the University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing. Jarrin co-founded the Latino Nurses Network with Paule Joseph, PhD, EMBA, MS, FNP-BC, FAAN, a decade ago because they sought other nurses who wanted to support and advocate for each other. “Nurses are dealing with high-stress situations that are emotionally demanding. It’s terrific to connect with other nurses and celebrate everyone’s success.”

Barrera agrees. “Community is important for several reasons,” she says. “Having professional support in the form of a networking community is critical to exchanging knowledge, best practices, and resource sharing.”

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Nurses also say the support they find in a community of nurses extends both ways. McCamey notices that even as more senior nurses help lead, they also need guidance as they move through leadership roles and situations. An organization that supports all levels of nurses will have members who share their experiences, both good and bad, to help other nurses take steps that produce results or avoid any potential pitfalls.

Nurses interested in personal and professional connections will find that most groups offer both organically. “Communities provide nurses with opportunities for ongoing education and professional development, for example, workshops and seminars,” says Barrera.

Nurses can also have more impact as a group. For advocacy purposes, a larger group of nurses can accomplish more, and that satisfaction is motivating. A network or group that is workplace-based can work for change in policies and processes for your immediate needs, just as a group that isn’t isolated to one location or workplace can take on broader issues in the industry.

If you can’t find the community that best supports your goals and needs, you can start one. “Nurses are the epitome of innovators and creators,” says McCamey. “We identify gaps and create solutions.” If a nurse feels there is a community lacking in a certain space, there are likely others who feel the same.

“As you build that community, people will come,” says McCamey. “The key to success is networking.” That doesn’t mean showing up at social events and conferences, although those are tried-and-true networking methods. McCamey says the pandemic removed barriers and that lets nurses form connections more easily. “You can reach out to people and ask for a conversation, and it’s socially acceptable,” she says. Before the pandemic, the rules around outreach were more rigid, but now nurses have new opportunities. Use texting, group chat, social media groups, or even academic institutions to help make the desired connections.

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McCamey feels the need for connection deeply, saying that if a community like DNPs of Color can help make one nurse’s journey easier, that’s essential. “Life is better in a community,” she says. “It is always inspiring to see people get nursing fires relit.”

Finding the right nursing community can make a difference between staying in the field and leaving it for nurses who feel especially burned out or isolated. “It reduces feelings of isolation,” says Jarrin. “It feels good to share accomplishments and successes. Sometimes, it’s hard to draw attention to your achievements, but in a supportive community, it’s viewed as celebrating success. There’s a sense of, ‘We’re doing this together.’”

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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