Years ago, I attended a legislative day sponsored by the New Jersey State Nurses Association held at the State House in Trenton, NJ. I sat in on a session of the house and met my local assemblyperson. I learned about state government and how bills are passed. I realized that day where the real power lies: in the legislature. I also realized that, as a nurse, I have the power to influence the process.
Every nurse can and should learn the ABCs of politics and power as the first step to personal and professional empowerment.
READ ALSO: Do Nurses Really Eat Their Young? By Donna Cardillo
Here are several ways to let your voice be heard, get more involved, and make a positive impact.
Develop relationships with your legislators:
Contact your assemblyperson, congressperson, and senator by phone or email. Introduce yourself as a nurse in their district and offer to be a resource on nursing and healthcare issues. Mention areas of concern, such as the nursing shortage, universal healthcare coverage, and stem cell research. Find your representatives on your state government page or at www.congress.gov.
Start a letter-writing campaign:
Ask colleagues to email or write letters to legislators about important issues. Lawmakers pay attention when they receive letters from RNs. Since many people shy away from writing because they are unsure of what to say, give them talking points and a sample letter. Check with your professional associations for talking points, sample letters, and information about letter-writing campaigns already underway. Although it’s less than ideal for multiple people to send form letters, they are better than nothing. Encourage people to change the words of the sample letter you supply without changing the core message.
Work on a campaign:
There is plenty of work to be done behind the scenes of local, state, and national campaigns. Consider donating money to a candidate whom you endorse and/or volunteering in your local campaign office, making phone calls, or whatever is needed. It is a great learning experience, and you’ll make valuable contacts while directly contributing to the potential success of a candidate you endorse. Also donate time or money to your professional associations’ Political Action Committee (PAC), which works to support candidates.
Join a legislative committee:
It’s a great way to learn more and to get involved as little or as much as you wish. The American Nurses Association has a legislative committee and so does every specialty and ANA membership organization. Once you join the committee, you’ll work on identifying issues important to nursing and healthcare, get involved in lobbying campaigns, and have an opportunity to meet and develop relationships with legislators. It’s a great way to step out of your comfort zone.
Join a political club in your community that best suits you and your interests:
These organizations exist to develop and actively support candidates for elected office, provide a forum for discussion of political issues, and encourage fellowship among politically like-minded individuals. It’s a great networking venue and a wonderful way to gain some visibility for nursing while letting our voice be heard.