Legislative agendas at the local, state and national levels often pertain to public health, nursing practice and other aspects of healthcare. Every day, legislators make decisions that affect nurses’ careers and the communities they care for. Nurses need to make sure legislators know where they stand when it comes to timely issues that affect their practice and patients. Here’s how.
1) ‘Lobby’ for scope of practice interests
The scope of nursing practice is often debated in state legislatures and around the U.S., especially in reference to APRNs. Lobbying groups opposed to increased nurse autonomy are extremely vocal. About 40% of states in the U.S. allow APRNs, including nurse practitioners, relatively unimpeded autonomous practice and prescriptive authority. Since, legislators sometimes do not understand or know about the particulars of nursing practice, input from constituents who are professional nurses can help them make informed decisions in the interest of the public good and can have an impact on the way nurse practice acts are amended or written.
2) Speak out about public health
Local, state and federal legislators frequently make decisions regarding immunization policies and issues pertaining to healthcare, including education. While some legislators may have a background in a medical or nursing profession, the majority rely on input from lobbyists, experts and the public prior to voting on bills and policies that have potentially far-reaching consequences.
Year after year, nurses are consistently rated the most trusted professionals, thus their opinions carry a certain cultural and societal weight. If state or federal legislators are debating a crucial issue, your expert opinion can have a valuable impact on the decision-making process. Legislators need to know your viewpoint and are usually grateful to be on the receiving end of clear, concise information.
3) Take the direct approach
Signing online petitions or form letters is a common method for sharing your opinions with those in government. However, in my opinion, a phone call to a legislator’s office carries much more weight — as does a personal letter or face-to-face meeting. If you would like to weigh in on a pending decision or ongoing debate in your state legislature or the halls of Congress, reaching out directly to lawmakers is crucial. Legislators will hear your message, and you can rest assured that your nurse’s voice will resonate deeply with those individuals charged with creating laws that will affect you, as well as your patients, colleagues and countless others.