1. Baker, Kathy A. PhD, RN, CNS, CGRN, APRN, BC Editor

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As we enter this presidential election year, I have found myself paying much more attention to the candidates than I have in the past. Perhaps it's that I am becoming more philosophical as I age. I am certainly fascinated by the diversity of the candidates. As a woman, I can't help but follow Hillary Clinton's campaign, intrigued by the varied responses of Americans regarding the possibility of a female president and having great admiration for her ability to succeed in what has been a male-dominated political world for so long. The religious beliefs of several of the candidates have seemed to raise some controversy, despite the fact that religious freedom has always been one of the foundational aspects of our democracy. Several candidates have been faced with overwhelming life challenges, such as John McCain, who was a Vietnam prisoner of war for 5 1/2 years in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton;" Barack Obama, whose parents were biracial in an era when this was socially unacceptable and whose father was essentially disengaged from his life; and John Edwards, whose wife Elizabeth is dealing with a recurrence of breast cancer and whose first child, Wade, died at age 16 in a car accident. For perhaps the first time in my life, I can actually identify with the candidates as real people who have experienced a life like mine.

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I have also thought of this election from the perspective of a nurse. Do these candidates understand the challenges we face in delivering care to sick patients who often have limited resources? Do they appreciate that nurses feel robbed of the opportunity to make a real difference because so much time is spent conducting non-nursing tasks and addressing regulatory requirements, instead of focusing on the individual needs of the patient? Are these candidates aware of the challenges we face in recruiting smart, talented individuals into our profession, particularly when there are not enough faculty to provide the education required for entry into practice?


These questions are followed by yet another: Do nurses really understand the implications of electing leaders who are uninformed about nursing and the "real" healthcare environment of today? Are nurses engaged as individual citizens in shaping health policy and influencing governmental leaders? Are we, as a discipline, savvy about the political process? I know I certainly could do a lot more. Dr. Jeri Milstead, Dean and Professor in the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, wrote:


It is natural for nurses to talk with bureaucrats, agency staff, legislators, and others in public service about what nurses do, what nurses need, and the extent of the cost-effectiveness and long-term impact on health care in this country. For too long, nurses talked to each other. Each knew their value; each told great stores; they "preached to the choir" of other nurses instead of sharing their wisdom with those who could help change the healthcare system for the better. (2008, p. x)


Ouch!! Those words hit home with me.


As a result of thinking more and more about my responsibilities as a nurse to engage in the political aspects of America, I have discovered several excellent references devoted to nurses. Milstead's (2008) text (the reference for the previous quote) is an excellent overview of health policy and politics. While written to an advanced practice nursing audience, I find many of the discussions to also have application to our nursing specialty. The text is brief and easy to read. Another informative text by Mason, Leavitt, and Chaffee (2007) offers a broad perspective of policy and politics in four spheres of "political action in nursing": the workplace, government, community, and organizations (e.g., SGNA). Their book is full of real-life examples of nurses who have made important contributions through their political involvement.


This is a year for great opportunity politically. We have a diverse field of candidates vying to become the 44th President of the United States. We also have an opportunity as nurses to educate these candidates and their advisors on healthcare issues pertinent to our patients and our discipline. I challenge you to give attention this year to the candidates' views on healthcare delivery. Educate yourself on the political process and how you as a nurse can influence health policy. Devote an SGNA regional meeting to learning more about becoming involved in influencing health policy and politics, perhaps inviting a local politician to dialogue with members about healthcare issues in your region. Challenge others to become more informed and involved. Let's make sure we do all we can to capitalize on this unique year in the history of our country. We owe it to ourselves as nurses and to those we care for-our patients.




Mason, D. J., Leavitt, J. K., & Chaffee, M. W. (Eds.). (2007). Policy & politics in nursing and health care (5th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier. [Context Link]


Milstead, J. A. (2008). Health policy and politics. A nurse's guide(3rd ed.). Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. [Context Link]