By ANA Career Center Staff – April 2015
Matthew Howard, MSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, CPN, had just started his career as an emergency room nurse when he decided to try his hand at networking. He went to a local Emergency Nurses Association meeting and was quickly elected treasurer of the chapter. He continued to advance within the association and began attending national events where he had the opportunity to meet the ENA president. Less than a month later, Howard had become the ENA liaison to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“You don’t get chances like that without going to those kinds of events,” says Howard, now director of educational resources for Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. “Networking gives you a chance to become part of the nursing profession and not just a bystander.”
The Importance of Networking
The opportunities that can present themselves through networking are limitless, says Angie Charlet, MHA, BSN, RN, director of quality and educational services for the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network. “It lets nurses get involved and become engaged. There is so much value in a face-to-face interaction. You really get a sense of someone’s energy. You meet like-minded people with the same struggles and ambitions, and gain insight into how nursing is changing.”
The most important advantage of building a professional network is the opportunities it can bring for career advancement. “I always love to receive a resume from a nurse I’ve met through a professional society,” Charlet says. “I like seeing a personalized cover letter that says, ‘I met you at XYZ meeting and I look forward to hearing from you.’”
For novice networkers, starting local is usually the easiest route. When Phyllis Kupsick, MSN, BSN, RN, FNP-BC, CWOCN, president of the Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society, graduated from her nursing program, her instructor told her, “I gave you the basic knowledge. It is now up to you to learn more by working with your peers.”
She quickly joined her state association. “New grads should definitely join their state organization and go to the meetings,” Kupsick says. “You make contacts, and the organization will keep you up-to-date on legislation and education practices.”
The American Nurses Association (ANA) constituent and state nurses associations offer opportunities for nurses around the country to get involved close to home. Also, there are many groups dedicated to specific nursing specialties that are open to those working in specialized care.
Joining committees and networking within your hospital system can help with career advancement as well as help solve patient care problems. Kupsick served on her hospital's product review and standardization committee, where she gained important contacts and helped find solutions to wound care problems her facility was facing. “Committees can really help nurses see how their peers took a different approach to solving a patient care problem,” she says.
National Nurses in Business Association President Michelle Podlesni, RN, is planning the organization’s annual conference, scheduled for this fall in Las Vegas. “When you go to a conference, you really see the value,” she says. “You meet someone who is further down the road you want to walk, and they’re accessible. You can actually talk to them.”
Podlesni does caution that it’s best for nurses to shop around to find the right conference to meet their needs before investing in attending. “It is amazing,” she says. “You find the right group of people and put them in an inclusive and accepting environment, and their attendance provides them a lot of opportunity.”
In addition to helping grow your professional network and making lifelong friends, attending conferences can also give nurses a chance to break away from the stress of their everyday work. “We work hard while we are at our conference, but I like to keep things fun. Nurses tell me all the time what a great time they have at our events,” Podlesni says.