1. Baker, Kathy A. PhD, APRN, ACNS-BC, FAAN

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Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to be in the nation's capital as the midterm elections were imminent. Conversations with locals, including those who work on Capitol Hill, revealed both excitement and tension around the upcoming election. Now that the elections have concluded, it is notable that nursing influence was evident in several election decisions.

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

United States (U.S.) Representative-Elect Lauren Underwood upset a four-term incumbent to win the Illinois 14th Congressional District seat in the House. Underwood is a public health and advanced practice nurse (dually prepared with a Master's in public health and nursing) and faculty member at Georgetown University. She was a senior advisor at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration, addressing many health care issues such as the Ebola outbreak, the Flint, Michigan water crisis, and the Affordable Care Act (


Congresswoman Underwood will be serving in the House alongside nursing supporter U.S. Representative-Elect Donna Shalala, from Florida Congressional District 27. In addition to serving as former Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Clinton presidency and chair of the 2010 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Committee for the Future of Nursing Report (IOM, 2010), Shalala was also Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Carter presidency. President George W. Bush appointed her to co-chair (alongside Senator Bob Dole) the Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors and, in 2008, awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation's highest civilian honor (


Both of these newly-elected representatives join long-time U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, the first nurse elected to Congress and now serving her 14th term representing Texas's 30th Congressional District. Prior to her election to Congress in 1986, Johnson was the chief psychiatric nurse at the Dallas Veterans Affairs hospital ( providing her with a vested interest in influencing policy around health care, particularly mental health, as well as many other social issues.


At the state level, an intriguing vote around legislation of nurse staffing ratios was defeated in Massachusetts, but the influence of nurses was evident in the coverage of the election reports. Voters who were interviewed on both sides of the issue reported their vote was influenced by discussion with nurses practicing in the state who provided perspective regarding the pros and cons of legislated staffing ratios (;


These recent election results reinforce that gastroenterology nurses and associates must take seriously the responsibility we have as health care providers to cast our vote in every election. We must be involved in shaping health care policy that determines how citizens' health is supported, whether through electing legislators who consistently support health initiatives or through our own efforts to advance policy that promotes access to care, environmental protections, elimination of poverty, and other support for maximizing the social determinants of health.


According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (, there are over 4.2 million licensed registered nurses in the United States. That number represents significant voting power. Regardless of the differences in opinion that each of us may hold on how to best achieve through social justice the fundamental right of health for every human being, we stand united as registered nurses on our commitment to promote health and equitable access for all through our ethical standards (ANA, 2015) for the profession.


Not many of us will seek or achieve election to political office. But each of us should take seriously our responsibility to cast our vote every time there is an election; if not for ourselves and our loved ones, certainly for those whom we care for every day and who may not believe they have the credentials or voice to articulate the health care needs of society. Being involved in policy efforts as a health care provider matters-at a minimum, as a registered voter. Take this seriously. Engage in the issues and vote to impact policy and health outcomes beyond your daily care delivery. Use your nursing influence.




American Nurses Association (ANA). (2015). The Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements (2nd ed.). Washington DC: Author. [Context Link]