Election year offers opportunities to influence.
Nurses make a difference. Those four words succinctly and accurately capture what our profession is all about and what each and every one of us is capable of achieving. Throughout 2020, you’ll be hearing that phrase even more as we highlight nurses’ positive contributions to the health and well-being of individuals, communities, and the nation as a part of the Year of the Nurse campaign and during Nurses Month in May.
Because 2020 is a major election year, nurses have an even greater opportunity to make a difference through our political advocacy, a critical component of our professional practice. Nurses can help shape healthcare and influence local, state, and national agendas through our voices and our votes. At more than 4 million strong, we’re a powerful constituency.
I understand how precious nurses’ time is, as many of you juggle work, family, and even school and community responsibilities. But as you know, political advocacy, including participation in elections at every level, matters. Issues that come before elected officials can include everything from determining whether your communities have enough school nurses to addressing vaccine-preventable diseases and ensuring access to safe, affordable healthcare.
So a great deal is at stake—first in primary elections and caucuses taking place across the country in the coming months and then the general election in November. Beyond the office of president of the United States, candidates are vying for 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 in the Senate. Nurses also can have an impact on outcomes closer to home, whether it’s determining governorships, state legislators or other officials or ballot initiatives. Keep in mind that public polling indicates healthcare once again has emerged as a significant election issue.
Although the American Nurses Association (ANA) no longer endorses presidential candidates, we developed an online resource, nursesvote.org, to support and encourage nurses in their political engagement. The site provides information on voter registration and other election-related resources, where presidential candidates stand on issues important to nurses and patients, and how to volunteer on campaigns. The latter is a great way to share your expertise and provide consumers and candidates with accurate information.
When it comes to engaging in political advocacy beyond voting, you can be involved at any level. For some of you, that may mean helping on campaigns with phone banking or hosting a fundraiser. For others, it may be posting pictures of your involvement on social media with the #NursesVote hashtag. Also, each election cycle, ANA’s political action committee (PAC) endorses congressional candidates who show a commitment to advancing the nursing profession and advocating on healthcare issues, both on Capitol Hill and in their congressional districts. (Learn more at anapac.org.)
Another way to engage in political advocacy is to participate in your state or constituent nurses association’s Legislative Day and ANA’s Hill Day in June. These annual events provide the opportunity for nurses to share information with elected officials from both sides of the aisle and gain their support for crucial legislation. Last year, for example, participants in ANA’s Hill Day helped gain bipartisan support from congressional members and their staffs for proposed measures on workplace violence prevention, home healthcare, workforce development, and safe staffing, among others. Legislative and Hill Days also help nursing students—our next generation of advocates—gain the skills they need.
Finally, if we’re truly to be good advocates and good citizens, I urge you to stay current on the candidates and key issues—and then vote. You will make a difference.
– Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, President, American Nurses Association