1. Baker, Kathy A. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, CGRN, FAAN

Article Content

Election year is always a golden opportunity for nursing. Candidates are looking for votes, meaning that nurses can capitalize on raising awareness about patient and nursing issues. For example, I have developed a relationship with my state senator and her health policy staff person. Several years ago, I contacted the senator's office via her official Web site, introduced myself (using all of my professional credentials), and offered to be of service should the senator ever have questions about healthcare or patient issues. Immediately, I received a personal reply back accepting my offer. Several weeks later, when I was at the state capitol, I visited the senator's office and met her health policy staff member. Since that time, I always make a point to stop by the senator's office when the legislature is in session just to make contact and keep the relationship going.

Kathy A. Baker, PhD,... - Click to enlarge in new windowKathy A. Baker, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, CGRN, FAAN

This year, the senator is up for reelection and I have made it a point to make several financial contributions to her campaign. To my surprise, I always receive a thank you letter with a personal response from the senator, acknowledging my relationship with her staff member, and also our mutual love of the university where I teach (the senator is an alumnus). Last evening, another nursing colleague (who is also a constituent of the senator's and the vice president of one of our national advanced practice nursing organizations) and I attended a local fund raiser for the senator, made a point to visit with the staff person I know, and sat in the front row of the meeting area to be sure we were noticed by the senator. Our plans are to now send a personal note, complimenting the senator and her staff on a great evening and, of course, reminding her of our availability to advise her on any healthcare issues in the upcoming year as well as encouraging her support for increasing state healthcare provisions for women and children as well as expansion of nursing roles.


Why didn't we visit with the senator directly, you may ask? In actuality, it is usually the staff who shape a legislator's view based on their interaction with constituents. That is my reason for spending so much time building and nurturing my relationship with the policy staffer. And, of course, financial support, no matter the amount, demonstrates a serious commitment to supporting the candidate and a greater likelihood of having your face and, more importantly, your voice remembered.


In my state of Texas, limited access to insurance and immunizations for children and women is of great concern as is a greatly needed expansion of advanced practice nurses' roles in increasing access to care. The more of a relationship I can have with my legislators, the greater my potential for influencing the outcomes in my state. I have elected to focus particularly on my state senator because she is a widely popular legislator in our state, from my area, and a young up-and-coming leader. And, of course, I love that she is a bright, articulate woman!


If you have not yet engaged actively in health policy issues in your state, I encourage you to make this election year your first entry into advocacy for patients and our profession. Developing relationships with legislators and their staff really takes very little effort with the technology we have available. In addition, healthcare issues are at the forefront of citizens' concerns, particularly with the Supreme Court's upholding of the Affordable Care Act. As a nurse or an associate, you have expertise and knowledge that is greatly needed by your legislator. Offer your expertise, find a way to make even the smallest financial contribution, and establish a relationship with your state leaders. Nurses are highly respected and regarded in our society ( Use your influence during this election year to advocate for patients and our profession. Don't miss a golden opportunity!