Building Relationships Through Nurse Advocacy
A message from ONA's Board President, Steve Rooney, RN
Just one week into the 2013 Oregon Legislative Session and progress could be seen around ONA's Health Policy Platform.
The progress was due to years of building relationships and maintaining our reputation and respect. While ONA pays staff and lobbyists to do some of the work, much of the work is done by our members throughout the state. Maintaining our relationships with legislators is never-ending.
ONA members in every house and senate district, have met with their legislators and established relationships with them. When the legislators arrive in Salem, either as first-timers or established leaders, they know something about ONA and nursing issues because of their nurse constituents.
Once in Salem, our members, staff and lobbyists continue to deliver our message. Some times that process is simple and direct and a personal introduction or short conversation is all it takes to get our message across and secure support for our ideas. Other times, it takes several conversations and multiple contacts from our members who are in that legislator's district before we can get our message and ideas to them.
Of course, there are some times that the legislators are less amenable to our message, but we can continue to communicate our message and educate them on the issues. Among the effective means of continued messaging include individual letters and phone calls from constituents.
ONA will often call upon our members to testify in front of legislative committees to deliver our message, especially if the member has experience or expertise in the subject being considered by the committee. Many staff nurses have expertise in the effectiveness of the Oregon Nurse Staffing Law so they are effective proponents for improvements in the law. A mental health nurse practitioner will understand the effect of cuts to reimbursement, so would likely be a good advocate for the issue of payment parity.
Testifying in Salem, whether it is in front of a legislative committee or any regulatory body is intimidating. However, if asked to testify, ONA staff will prepare members ahead of time, so that the members go into the hearing as confident and prepared.
Not many ONA members testify, but what all members can do is become familiar with ONA's Health Policy Platform and talk to co-workers about it. You can write to your representative or senator about the issues that concern you as a professional. Your voice carries weight beyond that of others, due to the respect that you have earned as a nurse. You can attend local events that feature legislators and when you do, be sure to introduce yourself as a nurse. You will be surprised how little it takes to be remembered by those politicians. As a nurse, you are seen as an expert, so you will be asked your opinions on health care issues. So please be sure to get ready to start building relationships that will serve you well throughout your career.