Political Activism For Nurses
Use Your Role as a Nurse to Get Engaged in Your Community and Beyond. Three of ANA’s advocacy experts share their tips for getting involved, even when you’re crunched for time. (Editor's note: This blog was published in 2018. Janet Haebler, John Richter, and Matthew Fittings are no longer with government affairs at ANA.)
Plus, nurses have a unique perspective to share and insight from the frontlines of health care that many politicians need. “Nurses are able to give their advice and expertise on how to craft legislation that will make either their lives or their patients' lives better,” notes John Richter, advocacy and engagement specialist with ANA.
It doesn’t matter whether you identify as a Democrat or a Republican. “In nurses’ professional lives, they rise above it all to make sure their patients get the care they need. Nurses can take the same approach when it comes being involved politically,” remarks Matthew Fitting, also an advocacy and engagement specialist with ANA. Nurses have a deep understanding of health care issues that both parties can get behind. The ANA Government Affairs team works to build support for bipartisan pieces of legislation, including safe staffing, nursing workforce development, and gun violence research.
How to Get Involved
We all know how busy nurses are, but there are simple, relatively quick ways to become more engaged:
Start in your workplace or community: Haebler reports, “Politics exist everywhere — including the organizations where we're employed.” The workplace is a natural place for nurses to become advocates. When you notice an issue at work, report it to those that can readily affect change.
You can also get involved in your neighborhood, community, or parent-teacher association. It doesn’t always have to be politics at the state or federal level. ANA’s Year of Advocacy, held in 2018, celebrated nurses who had gotten involved in their local communities in a variety of ways. Read their stories to get ideas of how you can contribute to yours.
Join your professional association: When you’re a member of ANA, you’ll be able to stay updated on pieces of legislation that affect nurses and patients. You can also join ANA at the state level to understand local issues. “No one can track everything going on politically themselves. You need the help of an organization or some group. That's what the state-level associations and ANA are able to do, in addition to providing education, training, and connection,” says Haebler. In addition to ANA Hill Day in Washington, DC, every summer, state associations also frequently have days of action where nurses from across the state visit their state capitol to meet with lawmakers and share their perspective and priorities.
Get to know your elected officials: It’s important to know who represents you, so you can get in touch with them. Find the politicians who represent your district here. Once you have their contact information, you can send emails expressing your opinions and follow them on social media. You should also sign up for their newsletter, which includes important information like when they host town hall meetings.
Did you know you could also schedule a meeting with your representatives? Call their office and ask to schedule a meeting to talk about the issues that are affecting nurses. “Members of Congress and their staff want to hear about the experiences you're having. You don't need to show up at their office with a 10-point plan on how to fix the problem. You just need to say, ‘This is a problem that I'm seeing in my patients,’ or ‘This is a problem that I'm seeing with my coworkers. Can you help fix it?’" says Richter. Use these tips to prepare for your meeting.
Share your advocacy on social media. Although politicians pay attention to social media, it’s not the best way to get in touch with them to share your beliefs. To do that, it’s more effective to call, send an email, write a letter, or attend a town hall meeting. However, social media does have an important role in advocacy. Sharing your passion for a cause, can help inspire others to engage. “If you’re involved with advocacy, take to social media so that your friends and family know you're doing it. Many people are not enchanted with the political process, but knowing that your neighbor who's a nurse takes the time, even with a busy professional schedule, could make a difference,” reports Fitting.
Write about your experience as a nurse. Nurses have unique perspectives to offer and for many years, the American public has named them the most trusted profession. Channel your passion for an issue into a letter to the editor or an op-ed in your local newspaper. Use these suggestions from The Op-Ed Project to write an op-ed.
Take advantage of RNAction.org: ANA’s advocacy site makes it easy to get involved. Visit the action center to personalize a form letter to your representatives or sign petitions. Follow their Capitol Beat blog to stay up-to-date on political issues nurses care about.
Volunteer for a campaign: As you get involved politically, you’re likely to find candidates you’re excited to support. If so, consider volunteering for their campaign. Stuff envelopes, canvas a neighborhood (go door to door educating residents about the candidate), or make phone calls. Don’t forget to get a yard sign and a bumper sticker to show your support!
Once you get engaged politically, you may even be inspired to run for office one day. In fact, there are already three registered nurses currently serving in Congress (with hopefully more to come!). Start by taking small actions to make your voice heard and see where it takes you!
What steps will you take to become an advocate? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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