1. Piskor, Barbara MPH, BSN, RN, NEA-BC

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Q: I want to get more politically active as a home care clinician, but I don't know where to start.


The first time I volunteered to visit my legislator was almost as terrifying as when I took my State Boards for Nursing. It turned out to be a positive experience. My legislator even asked me what I thought of various laws. I have been an advocate of "legislator education" ever since. I learned, on that first experience, that legislators rely on their constituents to inform them about policies and regulations. They can't be the expert in every field. You have a unique view of home care and hospice services whether you are a therapist, a nurse, or a social worker. They VALUE your perspective...especially if you are a constituent.


Before your visit.


* Become familiar with the issues that are controlled by the federal government and those controlled by the state.


* Differentiate between the House and the Senate at the state and federal level (except for Nebraska that has a unicameral legislative group).


* Develop "talking points" about your issue of concern by organizing your information and citing personal experience. They usually like and respond to real-life stories. Identify the groups or reasons for opposition to your issue and address the concerns.


* Prepare information to leave behind for future contacts with you and about the advocacy topic.



You are not alone in this activity. Your state-based professional organization probably has a "Lobby Day" each year in your state and your national association has one in Washington, DC. The day may be called "Day on Capitol Hill or Legislative Day." Access their websites to learn when they occur. These organizations usually have guides and resources to help you.


Both your professional organization and the trade organization for your industry may sponsor the activity. For example, the American Physical Therapy Association may have a lobby day regarding physical therapy practice issues, whereas your state home care association, and the National Association for Home Care and/or the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization may have a lobby day.


Lessons learned:


* Don't ignore the value of visiting your legislator's local office. The local office is mostly involved in solving individual constituent problems. They tend be very responsive, and they pass along your inquiries to the state or federal office.


* Maintain contact. A single encounter may not make an impression. As with many activities in life, perseverance counts. Most of the time, first-time legislation is not successful. Don't give up.


* Meeting with a legislative aide is often as fruitful as meeting with the legislator. These staff members are strategic in the development of new legislation and troubleshooting for current regulations and needed changes.


Your professional organization may have a link to a Legislative Action Center that will give you background information for current issues and your legislator's name when you enter your zip code. Click on Advocacy in most instances.


* Examples:








* Phone number for the Capitol switchboard (federal) is: They will provide the names and contact information of your representative and senators.


* Bipartisan information:




* http://www.lwv.orgLeague of Women Voters


* State-based legislation: http://www.legis.state (Insert State Postal abbrev).us


* Federal legislation: