Advocacy for all

Author(s):

Patricia Ford-Roegner, MSW, BSN, RN, ACSW, FAAN, now a senior health policy advisor at Amplify Public Affairs LLC and principal of her own practice, PFR Strategic Affairs, recalls a time when she was the only woman in the room at health policy meetings on Capitol Hill. Undeterred, this ANA member began honing the relationship-building skills that have served her well throughout her career, which has included serving as chief executive officer of the American Academy of Nursing and executive director of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Ford-Roegner also served as ANA’s director of governmental and public affairs from 1981 to 1990. For more than 30 years, she has been, and continues to be, an advocate for the nursing profession.

What achievements are you most proud of?

When I served in the Clinton Administration as the Atlanta regional director (1993-1999) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we implemented the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides low-cost health coverage to children whose families’ limited incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. I worked with governors in several states and was the first to implement the program in all eight states in my region. Participating in efforts to open a shelter for battered women in Atlanta was another proud moment. The idea came up during a conversation three other women and I had sitting around a card table at the YWCA. This experience showed me that even a small group of determined people can facilitate change.

What’s your leadership style?

It’s important to understand the dynamics of a given situation, so you can relate to your audience and accomplish your goal. You must articulate your objective succinctly so people can see benchmarks for achieving milestones toward the overall goal. To lead effectively, you must build measurement of success into the process. You also have to demonstrate that, as the leader, you’re willing to do the work that’s needed to reach the goal.

What initially inspired you to become an advocate for the nursing profession and women’s issues?

As a nurse, I saw firsthand how federal and state laws impacted women, and I wanted to find ways to help other professionals become better advocates for themselves and their patients. There’s no degree or course that trains you to become an advocate. If you want to affect change, you have to engage in the political process.

What’s your advice for nurses who are interested in advocacy?

Start with the main issue that’s your focus. What arguments can you make for changing a policy? Then address the counterarguments. Ask yourself, “Who will support me? Who won’t?” You can’t do it alone. All politics are local and personal. The more you can get to know people, especially influencers, the better you’re able to advocate. When you connect with people, be prepared to make your case and say who you are in a very brief time. For nurses, this means understanding that after 4 or 5 years of practice in one area, they’re experts in it. In the advocacy arena, getting women to recognize and present themselves as experts and leaders has been a challenge.

How should nurses approach board service?

Waiting to be asked doesn’t work. I saw organizations that I wanted to be part of and began making the connections that I needed to be considered for those boards. In each case, given my background and my profession, I thought it was important to share those experiences with others who didn’t have them. Nurses need to figure out which boards interest them. If you don’t know, ask people what might be a good fit based on your background, and let them know that you’re interested in serving.

Interview by Apryl Motley, CAE, professional writer.

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