Two of the best reasons to belong to a professional association may be networking and assuring the best patient care.

Professional association members often meet regularly to brainstorm and share information. They receive newsletters, lobby on behalf of their professions and patients, have potential opportunities (and discounts) for continuing education, and are assisted with job searches.

The Minnesota chapter of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology Inc. ( has about 325 members. Most are nurses and medical technologists who work in hospitals, clinics, same-day surgery centers and long-term care facilities.

Brainstorm on specific issues

"People who work in the clinic realm or in long-term care can actually get together with their committee members and have speakers come in and address issues that are specific to them," says Kathleen Steinmann, membership chair of the APIC Minnesota and an infection control practitioner at Hennepin County Medical Center.

APIC holds videoconferences for members who cannot attend committee meetings and forms study groups for those seeking certification. The overall goal is to share the latest information for prevention or management of infectious disease.

"We want to say, `Has somebody worked this problem out yet?' or `How did you handle this situation?'" Steinmann says. "We're all together in the bottom line of better patient outcomes."

APIC members even helped craft legislation regarding control of antibiotic-resistant staph infections in the state Legislature last year. "Being vocal has its benefits," Steinmann says. "By being a local organization and coming forward with consistency, it helps each person reaffirm what they are doing, and it also helps the patients."

The latter is one reason Jennifer Dean Dwyer doesn't understand why some physician assistants don't join the Minnesota Academy of Physician Assistants (MAPA), which helped develop ethical standards for PAs in the state and brought recognition to the 40-year-old profession.

Patients benefit, too

The state was not regulating PAs in Minnesota when Dwyer, now the group's public and professional relations chair, arrived here in 1979. Insurers weren't consistently covering PAs' services and there were no standards of care. Because of the efforts of MAPA, PAs are now registered with the state Board of Medicine, standards are in place and insurance problems are rare, Dwyer says.

"Having this organization assures them of a good practice environment in the state of Minnesota," she adds. "Everything we look at, every decision we make, the first question is, will this benefit our patients? Will this allow PAs to provide access to healthcare for more people?"

MAPA has about 500 members, most in primary care and many in rural areas, where physicians are not widely available. MAPA representatives attend regional and national meetings and visit Minnesota legislators in Washington, D.C.

MAPA's website,, also posts job listings and members may receive job alerts via e-mail.

Nancy Crotti is a freelance writer who lives in St. Paul.