by Anna Stiefvater, RN, MPH, ONA Cabinet on Health Policy Member
Earlier this fall I had the opportunity to attend the American Nurses Advocacy Institute (ANAI) in Washington, DC as a representative from the Oregon Nurses Association. I joined twenty-one nurses representing twenty states as we began the year-long mentored program. The intent of the program is to groom a cadre of nurses to be political leaders, while educating nurses about the policy-making process. The ANAI was a new program in 2009, and was designed to grow the political and advocacy competence of nurse leaders. The American Nurses Association developed the program in recognition that enacting policy changes at the local, state, and national level that improve working conditions for nurses and health care for patients requires skilled nursing advocates.
I’ve done some lobbying in the Oregon Legislature in the past, and went into the ANAI program eager to develop my skills and learn from ANA staff and my nursing colleagues from around the country.
We covered many topics during the program, with particular emphasis given to assessing the political environment when seeking a policy change that can be sustained, messaging for specific audiences, and working in coalitions. We also participated in visits to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress to lobby them in support of legislation that would allow advanced practice nurses to order home health services for Medicare patients. I was able to meet with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s office as well as members representing California, Washington, and Wyoming.
After returning from DC, ANAI participants work with their state nursing associations to develop a project or set of activities that will help meet a specific goal, and will use some of the skills we developed as part of the ANAI. I am currently working with the ONA Government Relations staff to identify a project and develop an advocacy action plan. My background and passion are in public health, and I am interested in pursuing a project in that field.
ANA staff and a volunteer nurse-mentor will continue to support me through regular conference calls and emails as I develop, begin, and complete this project. I am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow in my role as a nurse advocate.