Welcome to the Advocacy Correspondent, a quarterly offering from the Association of Pediatric/Hematology Oncology Nurses. The goal of this newsletter is to inform members about legislative and regulatory issues impacting the profession of pediatric hematology/oncology nursing and the patients we serve.
A Novice on Capitol Hill
Chantal Jessup BSN RN CPON®
While I have always had an interest in politics and a yearning to make a difference, I was certainly a novice to the legislative process, especially on a national level. Through my involvement with APHON, my interest only grew as I began advocating for policies such as the Title VII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act and the Childhood Cancer STAR Act through APHON’s Advocacy Correspondent. As both a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse for nearly a decade and as a mother, I realized that an entire community of families needed my voice to advocate for resources, research, and funding for their children. When I discovered that NIWI scholarship was offered through APHON in 2016, I decided to apply for the 2017 offering. While I did not receive it, I was encouraged to reapply. In the meantime, my desire to learn more and do more related to advocacy only grew, especially after taking my Health Care Policy course in my Masters of Nursing program. I applied again and was so ecstatic to hear that I was chosen! As I divulged into all of the information concerning advocacy and the Senate and Congress legislative processes, I began to panic. I felt naïve and inexperienced and began to doubt that I was capable of representing our Association as well as it deserves. I read and studied the material with a sense of apprehension. Then, February 14th, 2018 happened. Not even a mile from my house, at the high school my children will eventually attend, the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas school shooting took place. My community was devastated and I felt hopeless and lacked the motivation to do much of anything. Before I could even fathom what to do next, I watched the students of Douglas initiate change. They fearlessly voiced their opinions to lawmakers on how to prevent this tragedy from continuing to happen, much like we choose to do for our patients. Inspired by these children, I went to Washington D. C. and began one of the best experiences of my career.
The first day of the program was full of introductions and networking with highly accomplished professional nurses. We had the opportunity to listen to a Professional Nurse Advocates Panel consisting of leaders in Health and Public Policy. We also had the opportunity to review the specific “legislative asks” that we would be presenting to the lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
First Ask: A request to Co-Sponsor the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act (H. R. 959/S. 1109)
Second Ask: Support Funding for the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Programs
Third Ask: Co-Sponsor the Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act (H. R. 3692/S. 2317)
The following day was filled with various speakers, including a current Congressional Staff Speaker, who coached us on the proper etiquette when speaking with lawmakers and encouraged us to ignore any apprehension we held as the lawmakers would be very interested in our views as professional nurses. We received further education on advocacy and engaged in a Professional Advocate Panel from active lobbyists on Capitol Hill. We then broke into our individual state groups and strategized and rehearsed our visits for the next day on the Hill.
The morning had arrived and we were prepared, confident, and eager to begin the excitement. When we arrived on the Hill, our group shined! We each shared our personal convictions and stories on why the nursing profession is the cornerstone of healthcare and how an investment in us is an investment in the health of the nation. I was able to depict the need that our pediatric hematology/oncology patients have for nurses and our dedication to their survival and quality of life. Our “asks” were met with respect, agreement, and positivity and we left the Hill with quite the sense of accomplishment. We even finished the day with a tour of the Capitol and a seat in the Senate gallery to hear Bernie Sanders address the floor.
I am so grateful to have gained the experiences I have through APHON. I hope to continue to advocate for my patients and families to my fullest capabilities and feel much better equipped to do so now. I also hope to use this experience and knowledge to inspire other nurses to get involved with advocacy on any level. As the Florence Nightingale Pledge states, being a nurse is resolving to devote your career to the welfare of those committed to our care, and what better way to do so then to use your voice for those too vulnerable to do so themselves.
The Keys to Making Change in the Legislative Process
Jennifer Livingston, NSc APRN CPNP-PC CPON®
I attended the Nurse in Washington Internship a 1½ day learning conference with an additional day spent advocating on Capitol Hill. The purpose of this conference/opportunity is to teach nurses how they can be involved with and influence different policies at both the national and local level. Content was provided to educate nurses about some of the processes associated with advocacy and lobbying in addition to how a bill becomes a law. We learned different steps that are key to making changes in legislative processes. Participants also learned how to contact their members of congress/their staffers and how to schedule meetings with their delegates. The last day was spent advocating on Capitol Hill and learning to speak with Congressmen/women and their staffers.
Participants came from all nursing/educational backgrounds and from all over the United States. There were nursing administrators, bedside RNs, Advanced Practice nurses, nursing students, and PhD prepared nurses. Not all states were represented and some states only had one person to represent them while other states had multiple participants.
APHON provided me the opportunity to attend this conference that I would have otherwise not have been able to attend. I learned basic knowledge in advocacy and lobbying that can help me in the future when certain bills are up for renewal or when new bills are in need of a knowledgeable constituent to advocate. There are numerous bills that directly impact nursing and the patients that we care for as members of APHON and the knowledge attained at this conference will help me with countless future endeavors.
I feel this opportunity made me more confident in the advocacy/lobbying realm. I feel comfortable researching bills/laws and reaching out to my Congressmen/women for their support in matters that are important to nursing and pediatric Hematology-Oncology. I feel the investment APHON has made in me will pay off and feel it is a worthy cause for other APHON members to attend in the future. Advocacy is not something historically taught in nursing school, nor something learned while ‘on the job’. Its importance to nurses for their career and for the patient’s that they care for is paramount. Many nurses I have spoken with have no idea about bills that are applicable to nursing or peds Hem-Onc much less how to advocate for those bills. I have been able to share my knowledge with so many others and hope others may have the experience that I did!