Sunday May 26th 2019

ANA Lobby Day participants advocate on Capitol Hill

Assembly representatives from PSNA raised nursing issues with Sen. Toomey’s (R-PA) staffer. Assembly representatives from PSNA raised
nursing issues with Sen. Toomey’s (R-PA) staffer.

The rainy weather didn’t stop nearly 350 Lobby Day participants from heading to Capitol Hill to meet with federal lawmakers and their staff to discuss major issues, including safe staffing, workforce education funding, expanding access to home health benefits and research on gun violence.

Lobby Day was held June 23, the day before nurses gathered for the annual Membership Assembly in Washington, DC. In total, nurses from 47 states engaged in more than 250 Congressional visits, and virtual Lobby Day messages reached 80,000 people on social media.

“It is truly an extraordinary time to be a nurse and to be advocating for health care,” said ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, who welcomed participants at a breakfast briefing before they left for the Hill. “This is a prime opportunity to educate our lawmakers about the issues that are important to us [such as safe staffing]. We know that when there are not enough nurses, [patient] mortality goes up. We’re the last line of defense, and you represent millions of people who rely on us every day.

“I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention our feelings of sadness around the recent events in Orlando,” Cipriano said. She further referred to recent activity at the House of Representatives, where Democrats had been staging a sit-in to demand a vote on sensible gun control legislation, and described the need to lift a Congressionally-imposed, longstanding ban on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence.

A staff member listens to constituents from Florida Nurses Association on Lobby Day. A staff member listens to constituents from Florida Nurses Association on Lobby Day.

Also addressing the group were U.S. Sens. Joseph Manchin III (D-WV), Richard N. Burr (R-NC) and Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR) who spoke on several key issues, including staffing, opioid addiction, workplace education and gun violence, and who emphasized the important role nurses have not only in health care but also in political advocacy.

“We need to have safe staffing levels,” said Merkley, one of the lawmakers who introduced the “The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act” (H.R. 2083/S. 1132), which ANA endorses. “It’s long overdue, so let’s get it passed.” This bipartisan legislation ensures that the unique perspective of direct care nurses is reflected in staffing plans to account for the dynamics of a unit, including patient complexity, acuity, and nurse skill and experience.

Manchin shared statistics on the ongoing opioid epidemic in America and the need to address it on several levels, including treating addiction as an illness. Burr spoke about the importance of working aggressively to fund Title VIII workforce education programs, which are key to ensuring a future supply of nurses, and the great impact technology will continue to have on health care.

At the briefing, participants also were given strategies on how to address issues with their policymakers, as well as information on the RN safe staffing bill; the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act (H.R. 1342/S. 578), which would allow advanced practice registered nurses to certify their Medicare patients’ eligibility for home health benefits; and the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2713), which represents the primary funding source dedicated to recruiting the next generation of nurses and addressing faculty shortages.

Oregon nurses convey their views to Congressional staff. Oregon nurses convey their views to Congressional staff.

Among the Lobby Day participants at the briefing were a group of students from George Washington University in Washington, DC.

“I’m experiencing Lobby Day for the first time, and I really want to get exposure to the policy side of nursing,” said GWU nursing student Grace Drozda.

It was the second ANA Lobby Day for Martha Goodall, RN, a Washington State Nurses Association member and ICU staff nurse.

“There are a lot of nurses in the United States,” Goodall said. “It’s important for us to let them [policymakers] know we have concerns, we have a vote and we have something to say.”

And Jennifer Waterbury, MHA, BSN, RN, a Kentucky Nurses Association member who’s concerned about ensuring a safer environment for nursing, including safe staffing, said of her involvement, “As nurses we need to make a difference, and this is one way we can do it.”

For more information and to get involved, visit www.RNaction.org.

When nurses talk, Washington listens! Nearly 350 advocates make their mark on Capitol Hill during  ANA Lobby Day in June. When nurses talk, Washington listens! Nearly 350 advocates make their mark on Capitol Hill during
ANA Lobby Day in June.

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