Three separate (but connected) themes occur in November related to service. The Presidential election of 2012 dominated the media this year, and the debate over healthcare and the Affordable Care Act was a big part of the dialogue. The apprehension and anticipation surrounding the election this month have been palpable to anyone that took the time to engage in the campaign. It was a roller coaster of emotions throughout the year and at times was exhausting. Political decisions made by lawmakers in Washington and elsewhere in the country were inconsistent, while decisions based on a pledge of service to the people who elected them seemed elusive. I, like many others, have the right to vote; it is a privilege that allows me to participate in a small, yet significant way in our “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Ordinary citizens have the power to make a difference.
November, however, is not just about the Presidential election. The week of November 11, 2012, is National Nurse Practitioner Week, a time to celebrate who we are, what we do, and to recognize our individual/collective success. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners has themed this year's National Nurse Practitioner Week Your Partner in Health—The Nurse Practitioner: Informed ...Involved...In Touch. This theme can be interpreted in several ways, one of which is a call to action. There are still too many barriers to scope of practice, and consequentially, patients' healthcare outcomes. Every January, The Nurse Practitioner publishes a legislative update highlighting nurse practitioner (NP) issues in each state. It is a good idea to review this article periodically during the year to see what progress has been made in your state. As you do, remember the three “I's” of National Nurse Practitioner Week:
* Informed—Stay informed about legislative issues within your state. Know the issues, the bills that have been put forward that either support or restrict NP scope of practice, the sponsors of the bill, and your local, state, and national NP leaders.
* Involved—Become involved in your professional organization. Participate in letter writing campaigns, lobbying, or other related activities. Contact your representatives by phone, mail, e-mail, or in person, and ask for their support. Remind the elected officials that your vote does count. Be visible in the community, and get the word out about NPs.
* In Touch—Maintain ongoing dialogue with involved parties, especially patients—enlist their help. Be aware of what is happening “on the ground” if you do not provide direct care.
NPs serve as a vital part of the healthcare team and must remain informed, involved, and in touch.
America will also celebrate Veterans Day on November 11. Although the day is traditionally set aside to honor the men and women who have served or now serve in the military, it is a perfect time to remember the White House initiative, Joining Forces. The initiative was started in 2011 to bring attention to the special needs of military families in employment, education, and health. NP care of veterans in Veterans Affairs facilities continues to increase; the injuries and illnesses of returning soldiers are well documented, and programs—although not sufficient—do exist to meet their health needs. However, the health issues of family members of service personnel may be less obvious. For example, deployment and separation, mental health effects of military service, and disruptions in parenting/caregiver stress can contribute to health problems for loved ones. NPs are committed to seeking new models of care for military families.
November is a month of increased awareness of the call to serve in public office, nursing, and military service. Be sure to play your part in getting the word out.
Jamesetta Newland, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, FNAP