American Nurse welcomes the “Relentless School Nurse,” Robin Cogan

Author(s): Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN

2020 – Yes, Nursing is Political

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood spoke about the need for nurses to be political during her keynote speech at the American Academy of Nursing’s annual conference. I often wonder why nurses and nursing organizations have shied away, even refused to speak publicly about nursing being a political act. Perhaps, there is a crack in the armor that has been falsely protecting our profession now that Representative Underwood raised the issue at the most public of nursing forums, the Academy.

Nursing is political, even radical because we have a license to touch people. That is about as radical as you can get. Even more reason for nurses to embrace the political nature of our profession and leverage the power in the scope of our practice to speak out about issues that impact health. Did we need “permission” to be political? If so, perhaps Representative Underwood’s message did just that!

What does it mean to be political in nursing? Perhaps we need to redefine the term “political” that so many have distanced themselves from and create one that we can embrace as a profession. So, this is my attempt to restart this discussion, recognizing that we have visited this issue many times before this blog post. I am not discovering anything new and I recognize that fact. What may be “new” is Lauren Underwood, a nurse and Congresswoman opening the door for political action in the nursing profession.

When we view the term political through a nursing lens, the possibility to influence policies that impact health becomes clearer. Four million nurses influencing policy sounds like a powerful lobby for the greater good. Maybe it is simply viewing being political as a vehicle for policy change? Embracing the emancipatory nature of nursing practice with each new generation is vital.  Nursing is inherently about social justice, advocating for the most vulnerable is second nature. That is political, in its purest form.

Thanks to the power of Twitter and the presence of #NurseTwitter, Representative Underwood’s message of nurses being political is being shared across a wide social media platform. As my #TwitterFriend Jerry Soucy says:

Nursing is:

Political action

Intelligent care

Public service  

We have a social, ethical and professional obligation to care for the health of our nation. Nurses have a unique vantage point.  We are multifocal, simultaneously assessing through a magnifying glass and a wide angle lens. Speaking from the lens of a nurse activist, I invite my 4 million colleagues to try on the “cap” that nursing is political and see where it leads.

Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN is a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN), currently in her 19th year as a New Jersey school nurse in the Camden City School District. She serves on several national boards including The American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), a gun violence prevention research non-profit organization and the National Board of Certification for School Nurses (NBCSN). Robin is the Legislative Chair for the New Jersey State School Nurses Association (NJSSNA). She is proud to be a Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Fellow and past Program Mentor.

She has been recognized in her home state of New Jersey and nationally for her community-based initiative called “The Community Café: A Conversation That Matters.” Robin is the honored recipient of multiple awards for her work in school nursing and population health. These awards include 2019 National Association of School Nurses (NASN) President’s Award; 2018 NCSN School Nurse of the Year; 2017 Johnson & Johnson School Nurse of the Year; and the New Jersey Department of Health 2017 Population Health Hero Award. Robin serves as faculty in the School Nurse Certificate Program at Rutgers University-Camden School of Nursing, where she teaches the next generation of school nurses. She was presented the 2018 Rutgers University – Camden Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award for Part-time Faculty.

Robin writes a weekly blog called The Relentless School Nurse. You can also follow her on Twitter at @RobinCogan.

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