Department: Editor's Memo
The new year has arrived and promises to be an important and exciting year in American politics. Although we have just kicked off 2014, it is not too early to begin preparing for the November midterm elections. Candidates will soon start earnest campaigning efforts to win election for one of the many coveted seats in local and state governments as well as the U.S. Congress. During most of 2013, elected officials in legislatures across the country, especially in Washington DC, gave citizens pause and led many to question the magnitude of the privilege of service given to these few through our votes. Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying, “We in government do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
I am the first to admit that I do not thoroughly research every candidate before I cast a ballot. There are very few in office about whom I am able to decisively state, “I know that does or does not support X.” I traditionally do not make New Year's resolutions, but I am taking a different approach this year. I will make every effort to be more informed about my representatives regarding their position on issues that impact healthcare access, delivery, costs, and workforce.
This issue of The Nurse Practitioner includes the much anticipated 26th Annual Legislative Update. Drs. Susanne Phillips and Louise Kaplan have produced an outstanding update on nurse practitioners' (NPs) challenges and successes for NPs during the past year as well as the work to be continued. They have devoted countless hours to gathering information for the report. As you read this report, one thing becomes very clear: Every NP has the ability to participate in the legislative process. When was the last time you visited your local elected officials? Have you ever attended an organized lobby day at the state or national level? All the major nursing organizations offer a legislation or policy section on their websites where you can find guidance on how to prepare for a meeting with a legislator. Visit the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (www.aanp.org).
If possible, visit the office with a group of NPs. When making the appointment, let it be known that you are one of the legislator's constituents; it does not matter whether or not you voted for them. Be prompt to the appointment, and be prepared to wait to see either the elected official or a staff member. Be prepared with facts about the issue you plan to discuss; practice your speech so that you are confident and convincing. Develop a key message that you can repeat throughout the visit. If you plan to talk about a pending bill, know the bill numbers and the sponsors. Frame the issue within a broader context, such as access and quality of healthcare, rather than concentrate on minute details. One way to engage the individual is to relate stories about your practice or present real-life cases to illustrate the issues. Encourage them to visit your practice. Be direct and clear in asking for their assistance. Remember to educate them about NPs if they do not know who we are. After the visit, send a thank-you note and reiterate your request for assistance.
You might prefer to become involved in the campaign side of politics. Volunteer your time or donate money. Attend candidate events. Remember to forward copies of news articles about your healthcare interests to candidates and elected officials with a note highlighting how they can help the progress.
2014 will prove to be a big year for national politics, but every year is a noteworthy election year for NPs and our colleagues. Know your legislators and the APRN issues in your state as well as on the national scene. Be particularly astute to issues that restrict or hinder your ability for full-practice authority. Progress is often made one person at a time. May this be the year of the NP!
Jamesetta Newland, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, DNPNAP
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.