Happy Nurse Practitioner Week to all my wonderful colleagues. I am continuously impressed by our members’ unyielding dedication to their patients and our profession, and I applaud you during this very special week. Especially during this month of Thanksgiving, know you all have my thanks and gratitude.
As we digest the results of last Tuesday’s election, it is critically important that we remain engaged and involved in advocating for our children. Children are not partisan. They don’t get a vote so we need to fearlessly and vigorously speak out for them. All children deserve access to high-quality, affordable health care and to grow up in safe and supportive homes, schools and communities. NAPNAP has a long history of advancing child health policy priorities in a non-partisan manner, working productively with elected officials of all political persuasions. We will continue this with our child health partners to advocate for healthy children and families. I ask that we all renew and invigorate our efforts and raise our collective voices to put kids at the top of policy agendas both nationally and in our states.
I also recognize that this election season has been fundamentally different and disturbing. I have spent some time in quiet reflection to acknowledge and process my own emotions and feelings to what I watched, read and heard last week. We are emerging from one of the most adversarial, negative and divisive political campaign seasons in American history. A preview of data from the upcoming Stress in AmericaTM poll by the American Psychological Association indicates many Americans reported that the 2016 election has been a significant source of stress, regardless of the respondents’ gender or political affiliation.
And our children have not been immune to the negative effects of the uncivil discourse emanating from all corners of the political spectrum and constantly replayed on traditional and social media sources. Surveys of teachers and many news sources have reported increased verbalizations of fear and increases in classroom incidents of negative verbiage and bullying behavior.
I find myself focusing on the pervasiveness of fearmongering in our current culture. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, fearmongering is the action of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue. This strategy utilizes tactics such as exaggeration and repetition to achieve a desired result. While these tactics may be effective in the short term, what are the long-term consequences?
USA Today reports that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the two most unpopular presidential candidates in the more than 30 years of ABC News/Washington Post polling. Both campaigns, and their campaign supporters and surrogates, intentionally and successfully incited anger, fear and mistrust among the American electorate at unprecedented levels. And I fear that our society may be grappling with the negative consequences for a long time to come.
In a poll conducted by The Associated Press this past summer, three quarters of voters said that their pick for president was motivated by voting against one of the candidates rather than voting for the most qualified candidate or one who shares their positions. A startling 81 percent of Americans said they would feel afraid following the election of one of the candidates, and one-quarter said they were afraid of both!
So how does one find a path forward from the effects of our current national trauma? For guidance, I found myself consulting a few of our past great American leaders. For instance, Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural address, delivered in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression, stated “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we must fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Fear has been often called the enemy of reason, inviting suspicion, prejudice, division and policy paralysis. So, what is our role as American citizens and advanced practice nurses to restore reason and civility and be sure concern about the well-being of children and their families can be heard? Three thoughts come to mind:
- I believe we must start by rejecting fear-based tactics, turning off the media outlets that promote them. Make thoughtful choices about your sources of information. Reducing the dose of negative input can greatly improve our outlook and daily quality of life.
- We must model mature, respectful and civil discourse and debate, and insist on the same behavior from our public officials.
- We must continue to counsel parents and caregivers and provide resources to assist them in knowing how to talk to their children about what they hear and see to allay fears and anxieties.
As we look forward, let’s take a few moments to give thanks to our families, friends and colleagues who support and nurture us. Let us move forward knowing that when we work together, we can achieve great things.
All my best,