With the health care reform finally here, politics and nursing are not far off from each other. Now and again, we have proven that nurses can heal an entire nation. But how can we be more involved? Regardless of the political season, your particular political affiliation (if any) and time constraints, becoming involved is easier than you may think. Below are a few suggestions to help you make a difference.
- First, find your passion. Wet wood won’t burn. Which issues “fly all over you” and really “push your buttons"? Are you passionate about staffing levels, health care reform, or violence against nurses?
- Join your voice with colleagues. When I am in a room of co-workers, I add our collective experience. We often represent over 100 years of nursing experience. This is a powerful position from which to speak and hard to dispute.
- Join your professional organizations to join with similar voices. This is how powerful organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and American Association of Retired Persons were created. These organizations are undisputedly powerful forces creating change on the local, state and federal levels. For example, I joined the California Nurses Organization/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC), as we share views on staffing and health care reform.
- Once you join an organization, get involved. Many professional nursing organizations are struggling to recruit membership and leadership. A conversation I had with the chair of the Georgia Nurses Association (GNA) political committee resulted in an offer to serve on the committee.
- Answer calls to volunteer with a campaign or cause. For example, the American Nurses Association issued a call for volunteer nurse reviewers for the Handle with Care Recognition Program. Lack of participation makes it easier and more important now, than ever, to emerge as a leader. A conversation I had about violence against nurses brought an offer by the GNA president to write an article on the subject.
- Give validity to your voice by being a registered voter. Registration is simple. Check your local city hall or many Departments of Motor Vehicles will register when obtaining a driver’s license. Encourage friends and family to do the same. Organize a car pool to your local polling place on Election Day. Consider running for office.
- Attend related debates or town hall meetings in person. It will undoubtedly be an educational and interesting experience. If you cannot attend in person, host a viewing party in your home or office. We served popcorn at our “Sicko” viewing party and enjoyed a lively debate afterward.
- As nurses, we enjoy being the number one most trusted profession year after year. People seek and trust our opinions. Promote conversations and debate by wearing a button or t-shirt, or a post in social media sites. Regardless of who responds, a great conversation follows.
- Make your voice powerful. I am on a personal crusade to get women to eliminate qualifiers such as “just” and “only”. We are not “just” nurses. We are nurses. We are not “just” staff nurses. We are staff nurses providing care.
- Make your voice an informed voice. News media is driven by viewer numbers, brevity, and the most reactive/exciting spin. The goal is to entertain rather than educate. Verify the information presented. An internet search of several sites can clarify whether the story was unbiased and well researched. Visit Health on the Net Foundation to evaluate a web site.
- Do not allow the entertainment media to represent or define our profession. Use controversial shows, such as Nurse Jackie, to create an opportunity to communicate and educate about nursing ethical issues.
- Elected officials cast their vote on a subject by what they hear from constituents. Don’t allow a few to make decisions for the masses. Voice your opinion and reach out to your elected official by sending a letter via the U.S. Postal Service or by email. Visit USA.gov to contact Federal, State and Local officials. Emails and letters really are read, and officials do respond. I wrote every elected official imaginable to voice my concern about the practice of the Georgia Secretary of State Web site providing license numbers and home addresses on the licensure verification site. Professional organizations such as CNA/NNOC send call to actions to prompt calls, letters, or emails on pertinent issues. Such calls to actions help me to clearly articulate my concerns and define the action I want the official to take. If 40% of voters took the time to voice positive or negative comments to elected officials, it would create a tremendous power of change.
- Utilize opportunities. I take advantage of every speaking opportunity to implore nurses to link license to PO Box or work address.
- Finally, keep your sense of humor and remember that a lively debate is a good thing. We are not out to convert or be converted. We must find a way to live together on this planet. One group, Improv Everywhere, uses scenes of chaos and joy in public places to educate and inform.
We live in exciting times. Reform is here and nurses are greatly affected. We need to focus our efforts stop the infighting regarding issues such as the entry level, which have raged my entire lifetime. Nursing needs to unite with politics to heal the nation. Nurses must speak up to define nursing standard of care and drive health care.