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Healthcare's Role in Politics

Published June 19, 2013 11:09 AM by Renee Dahring
This week I am going to turn the tables and ask you a question.  

Should we, and by "we" I mean the collective "we" such as our NP and PA organizations, take a stance on political issues? 

More people are paying attention to what we say. We are in the news and our visibility is at a historical high. As the states begin to implement the Affordable Care Act we have found ourselves with an unprecedented opportunity to promote and advance our professions. We have been seizing this opportunity, and this year we have been very busy introducing legislation and lobbying our state and local elected officials to ensure we are not left behind.

So when I say "political" issues I don't mean practice issues. It's pretty much a no brainer that all of us should be involved when it comes to legislation which could potentially impact our scope of practice, prescribing, billing or patient access to our services. 

What I am referring to is the other hot political topics of the day - and there is certainly no shortage of them. In any given week if you turn on the news or read the paper, at the minimum, you will see debate on immigration, gay marriage, abortion, entitlements and national security. And all these issues have one thing in common: people are passionate about them. 

So should we take a stand on these? I don't mean personally, but collectively as a profession. Should we weigh in on these matters or should we stay out of the fray? 

Arguments can be made on both sides. On the one hand, some might say we have an obligation to take a position on the important social issues of our times. On the other hand these are highly divisive issues. What do you think?  

I am also interested in how far you think we should go in supporting specific politicians who are highly involved in one or more of these controversial issues. For example, suppose a senator or representative is a staunch supporter of NPs and PAs and supports our legislative goals but has also been very vocal on a particular social issue? 

I am interested to hear from you. What do you think are the pros and cons of extending our political activism? 


Renee, thank you for posing an important question that I believe is not newly pertinent but has rightfully gained press since the passage of the ACA in 2010.  We as healthcare providers have always been involved in ethical decision making and as government become far-reaching into every facet of industry and personal life, government is now involved in ethical decision making.  It is important to understand the order.  We as providers must continue in what we have always been expected to do: do no harm.  And now, we as providers must lobby, with the new role of government, to do no harm as well.  

There is danger in the collective "we" which usually means either 50.0001% majority or it means an oligarchy of professional leaders to "speak" for all NPs.  Liberty and individuality are what made America great and the closer a profession comes to seeking their interest above individuals, conscience and individuality are compromised.  

Recently, my own professional organization hosted the highly polarizing Kathleen Sebelius (who is currently be investigated for illegal fundraising) to our national conference instead of Dr. Benjamin Carson, a world-famous neurosurgeon and public servant.  It was clearly a "political move" to get on the "good side" of the ballooning federal government and caused many in my profession to discontinue their membership.  

Instead of seeking to "get a piece of the pie" in the drowning Federal government, the best approach would be to address the "hot topics" in leui of one's conscience.

Abortion: when does human life begin?  Is a human valuable before it is born?

Euthanasia: Is a patient, in the fragility of a terminal illness, capable of choosing the risks and benefits of early death?  Do we want to look like Belgium?

Immigration: Should the laws we currently have be upheld or should those who choose to break them receive amnesty?

Not to sound like Jimminy Cricket, but as midlevels, the role of conscience must remain protected and politics has a very poor history of respecting the individual.

Caroline Pilgrim, Roanoke June 19, 2013 1:27 PM
Roanoke VA

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About this Blog

    Occupation: Nurse Practitioners and NP Recruiters
    Setting: correctional healthcare/career consulting/teaching
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