Take advantage of the opportunities to make professional organizations work for you
by James Mark

Those of us who work in the home care industry can occasionally feel like we’re dealing with caregiving challenges for which there are no obvious answers, business problems that are complex and legislative developments that confuse us about what lies ahead for our industry. One way to combat these feelings is to join hands with other like-minded individuals or businesses and join a professional organization. A professional organization is usually a nonprofit association that works to advance a particular profession, to advocate for the livelihoods of the folks in that industry and/or to promote the public interest in general. The home care industry is fortunate to have a number of excellent professional organizations that strive to represent the interests of their members and serve the public. Belonging to a professional organization is a great way for individuals or business owners to obtain access to advocacy and education. This is a powerful way to stay informed of the most current news and events affecting the home care business. Organizations can provide you with assistance in the creation of press releases, letters to the editor, reports and other public relations or marketing materials. A number of professional organizations offer exclusive invitations to educational opportunities, such as national conferences and other regional events. You can join forces with other reputable home care providers to participate in thorough and reliable accreditation programs. These programs—whether in the HME niche, the private duty care space or other 
areas of our industry—can identify those professionals who maintain compliance and continuity of the industry’s highest standards. Members of professional organizations often have special access to password-
protected websites, members-only newsletters, webinars and other exclusive resources. These tools give members an advantage over others in the home care marketplace because they provide a forum in which you can learn from peers and share best practices for providing high-quality home care services. But in order to truly experience the maximum benefit from belonging to a professional organization, it’s not enough to just pay your dues and read your newsletters. The following are practical steps for getting the most out of your organization membership and developing your professional skills in the process. Join a committee. The best way to kick-off your involvement in any professional organization is to serve on an organizational committee. My first introduction to leadership in an association was serving on the public relations committee. This was the place to learn about the workings of our association and industry. Look for leadership opportunities. Learning leadership skills can be very useful regardless of your profession. If you can lead volunteers to accomplish significant goals in your professional organization, you can lead anyone. Attend all association meetings. Make a commitment to be present for your association’s monthly and annual meetings. There is no replacement for the benefit of face-to-face, peer-to-peer education and networking. Don’t make the mistake of missing out—just be there. Chair a meeting. Once you’ve become more familiar with the inner workings of the association and have forged some relationships among your colleagues, it may be time to step up and serve as the chair of a local meeting or even your association’s annual conference. You’ll learn important skills in this role and you’ll also obtain important professional visibility for yourself. Run for election to the board. If you don’t succeed, you will have raised your profile in the industry and earned the chance to try again next year. If you do succeed, you will have behind-the-scenes access to more information than your peers. If you feel like you’re toiling away in this business on your own, you’re not alone. There are a number of excellent professional organizations that were designed to help align you with other individuals or businesses that share the same interests. It’s time to belong. In 2014, consider the benefits of belonging to a professional organization. Perhaps this is the year for you to realize some of those benefits for yourself.