Despite the fact that health care experts acknowledge that nurses have a responsibility to address the health problems facing our country by participating in health policy development, nurses individually and as a profession have been relatively uninvolved in the political process. In our nursing program, we’re working hard to change that!
On February 26, the junior nursing students of Luther College boarded a bus at 5 a.m. (with lots of coffee in hand!) to travel to Des Moines for the Iowa Nurses Association (INA) Legislative Day. Following a brief greeting from the INA President, keynote speaker Angela Tharp spoke about mental illness and the stigmas still surrounding it. Her powerful presentation added a personal touch, as she discussed her own experience with her son's mental illness and his death by suicide. This presentation was directly in response to two of the 2020 INA legislative priorities of meaningful gun control and mental health services and support. Afterward, a briefing on current legislative issues was led by INA lobbyist, Jim Obradovich, which flowed nicely into a session from speaker Sharon Guthrle PhD, ARNP, CPNP, NCSN, RN-BC, about how to communicate with legislators effectively. Students also had the opportunity to learn how legislative activities become bills and laws.
Legislators are going to make policy decisions whether or not they hear from us. If we aren’t talking to them, SOMEONE will (for better or for worse). Our students have a responsibility to learn how to address the health problems facing the nation by becoming actively engaged in the health policy process. Nursing’s contributions to health policy have increased over time. Yet, far too many health policies are developed without ample input by nurses. The idea of getting involved in politics can seem overwhelming and, frankly, a bit frightening! And, the process can seem like a bit of a mystery. The students were able to hear about their role in health care policy and identify areas where nursing can have a strong impact in the legislative process. Removing the veil of mystery revealed a process that’s not as intimidating as they originally thought.
Please consider creating a new “Contact” in your mobile phone for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-272-8255. Maybe you won’t personally need it, but a friend or family member might, and you may not have the luxury of time to look up the number when it’s needed.
Source: Ellenbecker, et al, 2017