Nearly 300 nursing leaders filled the halls of Oregon’s State Capitol
Building during ONA’s Nurse Lobby Day on February 19, 2013. They came
together to discuss ONA’s Legislative Agenda, exchange information on
health care policies and meet with legislators to advocate for the
issues that matter most to nurses. These issues include supporting
payment parity for nurse practitioners and physician assistants in
primary care and mental health settings, investing Oregon’s Tobacco
Master Settlement Agreement (TMSA) in tobacco prevention, cessation and
public health programs, and discussing safe nurse staffing.
The present and the future of nursing were represented, as both nurses and nursing students attended the event.
Michelle Schultz, a nursing student at Linfield College, learned a lot during her first Nurse Lobby Day.
“In school a lot of my experience with nursing comes from books and
doesn’t include the legislative aspect,” Schultz said. “Learning about
that side of things today was a real eye-opener and I want to get more
was part of a small group led by Jen Barr, RN, BSN, and Clarice
Gerlach, RN, members of ONA’s Cabinet on Health Policy and Cabinet on
Economic and General Welfare, respectively. Throughout the day, the
group met with legislators and legislative staff representing Portland
and Washington County.
Both legislative staff and legislators enjoyed discussing health care issues with their constituents and asking for their input.
“The staffers were very receptive and asked great questions. They
seemed to have a good idea of what their legislator would support,”
“One of the representatives asked us if we used Tobacco Master
Settlement funds to pay for public health programs, what other programs’
funding would we change,” Barr said. “He raised some difficult
questions and it resulted in a great discussion about public health.”
“We pointed out that there has to be a way to invest in programs that
result in long-term rewards, like investing the TMSA in the tobacco
prevention, cessation and public health programs it was meant to
support. It was great to have a chance to talk about both health policy
and the return we can get by investing in public health early,” Gerlach
While legislator meetings and Capitol tours filled the afternoon’s
agenda, participants spent the morning learning about ONA’s legislative
priorities and getting updates on important health care issues.
The event began at the Micah Building across the street from the
Capitol with talks from ONA President Steve Rooney, RN, and OSNA Vice
President Jesse Kennedy about the present and future of nursing.
Senate President Peter Courtney, the most veteran member of Oregon’s
legislature and a six-time Friend of Nursing award winner, also spoke to
nursing leaders about how his own medical experiences helped him
realize the value of nurses firsthand.
"Nurses are very much the backbone of the health care system. You are the glue,” Courtney said.
The audience of nurses and nursing students appreciated his message of support.
“Usually our biggest legislative supporters have a direct connection
to health care. It’s great to hear from someone who isn’t directly
connected to the field of health care who understands the importance of
ONA and what nurses do,” Barr said. “A lot of the things President
Courtney identified as reasons he supports nurses’ work, are the same
reasons we got into nursing to begin with, so it’s great to hear that
our work is appreciated.”
were also given updates on ONA’s legislative agenda and payment parity
for nurse practitioners and physician assistants in primary care and
mental health settings, Oregon’s Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Proposal and safe nurse staffing.
After small group discussions and a lunch break, participants headed
across the street to the Capitol to meet with their elected
Nursing leaders met with Senators, Representatives and staff from
more than 80 legislative districts, meeting with representatives from
nearly every district in both the Oregon House of Representatives and
Nurses sharing their firsthand experiences with legislators and staff
was one of the most unique and powerful portions of Lobby Day.
“When we spoke to our legislators about tobacco prevention and
cessation, I shared my experiences working with long-time tobacco users
on the medical oncology unit,” said April Mar, a CNA at Portland
Providence Medical Center and nursing student at Clackamas Community
College. “It’s not a good way to go and we need to find ways to stop
people from using tobacco and becoming addicted in the first place.”
Being able to share their experiences with legislators and other
attendees and meet nurses and students from their district were some of
the most valuable experiences many nurses and nursing students took away
from Nurse Lobby Day.
“It was great to meet more nurses in my area and get positive
feedback from our members about the direction ONA is going,” Barr said.
Hopefully Nurse Lobby Day inspires changes in legislators and nursing leaders.
“In the hospital setting I take it upon myself to institute change,
so I was happy to take this opportunity to learn more about the
legislative aspect and see what positive changes we can make,” Mar said.