The beginning of a new school year and the celebration of Labor Day mark the end of summer. Football season has begun and with it the other fall competitive event, political campaign season. This year in particular there are some drastic and worrisome differences in the tone and tenor of political debate. Americans have traditionally been a hopeful and optimistic people. We have always valued civil discourse and an open debate of conflicting ideas without the meanness, combativeness and lack of ethical behavior we are currently seeing.
Our national psyche is being poisoned by a steady diet of rude, insulting, angry, arrogant and untrustworthy behavior from all sides of the political spectrum and at many levels of government. It concerns me that we have seemingly become accepting of behavior in politics that we would not tolerate from our children. Anger and fear are the prime emotions that are being used to influence voters. In addition, our current elected officials are not making progress on solving real issues that impact our lives every day. No wonder people are angry, fearful, cynical and losing trust and faith in our political system.
And in this environment, I am tasked with writing to you about the importance of being involved in the political process and asking you not to turn your backs on the whole mess. A tall order! But I truly believe that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It is truly an “evil” that the United States ranks so poorly in healthcare outcomes. According to a recent Commonwealth Fund report, the U.S. places last among 13 high-income countries in select population health outcomes and risk factors. That statistic translates to countless lives lost or harmed unnecessarily because of our collective inability to address the flaws and inequities in our healthcare system.
Despite how you may feel about politics in general, I urge all of you to take three actions:
- Please focus on your local and state elections and vote. Low voter turnout tends to elect candidates whose views are not reflective of the majority of citizens because the majority sits on the sidelines.
- Investigate the candidates in your local races. Your local and state elected officials have more influence on your day to day lives and the quality and safety of your homes, communities and schools than any D.C. politician. Pay special attention to candidates for your state senate and state house of representatives. These legislators directly control your professional practice and determine the level of care you can deliver through the authority granted in your state’s nurse practice act. Most legislators do not understand advanced practice nursing qualifications and preparation. Nobody can help them understand the level of care you provide and the vital role you play in the health of your community like YOU can. No one but YOU, a constituent, can credibly give them the factual information about APRN education, certification and the documented quality of care we provide. Continuing to restrict patient access to APRN care is the real danger to public safety because there are real human consequences for every person who cannot access needed care. Only YOU can bring to life and to their attention real stories about the harm that people suffer when they cannot access the coverage they need, and the care they need from qualified providers of their choice at a reasonable cost.
- Introduce yourself to newly elected (or re-elected) legislators and start building a relationship with them. Nursing 101 taught us that a “therapeutic relationship” with a patient is essential and that trust and respect are key components. We must transfer that lesson and realize that legislative successes are built one legislator at a time when there is a relationship based on trust, respect and an understanding of the roles we serve in their constituents’ communities. Only YOU can accomplish this.
NAPNAP has many resources to help—and it only takes a few minutes and at the most a few hours of your time. The following links will help you get started.
- Question candidates about key issues.
- Introduce yourself to elected officials with our pre-written letter.
- Learn more about key child health and advanced practice nursing issues as a member of our Child Health Policy Learning Collaborative.
I also encourage you to get actively involved in the organizations that matter to you. NAPNAP is currently recruiting candidates to run for our Executive Board and Nominations Committee. Serving on the Executive Board can provide you with the opportunity to make a positive impact on issues critical to pediatric-focused APRNs and child health. I can tell you from personal experience that serving on the Executive Board of NAPNAP is truly rewarding. You can find out more about available positions through the Nominations page of the NAPNAP website.
I leave you with a quote from Edward Everett Hale, a 19th century American author and historian:
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
Thanks so much for all the “somethings” that you do each day.
All my best,