Bringing Nurse Priorities to Congress

Aug 10, 2011, 12:00 PM, Posted by

By Margaret Wainwright Henbest, R.N., M.S.N., C.P.N.P.

Executive Director of the Idaho Alliance of Leaders in Nursing and Co-Lead of the Idaho Nursing Action Coalition


Last month I had the opportunity, as the co-lead of the Idaho Nursing Action Coalition, to meet in Washington D.C. with other nurse leaders and their professional partners from states across the nation to talk with our respective Congressional delegations about the Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.

Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Connect program, we were prepared, confident and on target in our meetings.

The IOM report makes specific recommendations that identify what Congress, the executive agencies, state legislatures, businesses, colleges and universities, and nursing professional organizations must do to prepare nurses to meet the challenges of a transformed health care system. In order to be effective, the coalitions must engage all these entities and educate them about nursing’s role in improving the quality, access and affordability of health care services.

The Connect training gave the coalition leaders the skills they need to accomplish this. The Connect coaches helped the teams identify how they could effectively engage their members of Congress in the work of the state coalitions.

Understanding that lawmakers want to help people solve problems, we learned and practiced storytelling as a means to communicate our priorities in a meaningful manner and importantly, we learned to ask for what we need—something that doesn’t come easy to many nurses.

When we were not in a formal training session, we had ample opportunity to informally interact with other coalition members. It was great to be able to ask others how they had approached the early work of the coalition.

Our coalition came away with new members, and a commitment by three of our members of Congress to be informed about the coalition’s activities and what they could do to help advance our goals at the federal level. We came away with new ideas and solutions that will help our coalition to be effective.

Read more about the recent training organized by the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action for nurse leaders and other health leaders from 25 states.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.