Should you be connected with nurses outside of your work sphere? Definitely. However, I have to give a couple of caveats.
First, the ANA (and constituent state organizations) do not represent nurses to the degree their public bravado would indicate. Our local organization (county-wide) has a membership of perhaps 3% of local RNs. The membership is also heavily weighted toward professors and advanced practice nurses. So, when ANA says, "We speak for ALL nurses," take it with a grain of salt. (Our state organization (NCNA) tends to get cranky when any other nursing organization speaks for nurses -- say at a legislative hearing).
Local and state organizations can also -- like any other such organization -- be somewhat ingrown. There is a core in our local group that has been there for years. Many new members fade in and out, but the organization tends to stay the same. It is, frankly, getting quite old now. Meetings have the feel of a ladies' tea, and women below a certain age, and men, tend to stick out.
I highly encourage checking out local meetings of ANY organization prior to putting up dues money. (Which is not inconsiderable). If one group doesn't "fit," look for another. And when you find one that fits, get involved. You CAN make a difference.
Jim Huffman, RN