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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Nurses Getting Involved

Published April 30, 2010 11:48 AM by Adrianne OBrien

Whether or not you support President Obama's healthcare reform, whether or not you're a member of the ANA, nurses can agree on one thing: the healthcare bill was one big piece of legislation, and the ANA and nurses were involved in its creation

Get involved. How many times have you heard those words? Probably many (too many?), but the message never gets old. The more involved nurses get with healthcare policy, the more they can positively affect patient care and the more they can elevate the nursing profession.

This point was echoed by Marybeth Farquar, PhD, RN, vice president, performance measures, National Quality Forum. "We need to be at the table," said Farquar during an April 8 session on The Q Word: Quality Transformation in Nursing Education and Practice at the National Student Nurses Association's annual conference. "Otherwise, we don't have a voice." Then, to laughter and applause: "Nurses are often the voice of reason in the room."

Rebecca Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR, ANA president, played both good cop and bad cop. "It takes just one committed person to make a difference," she said, paraphrasing Margaret Mead. "Just one. Nurses don't have the political ability because we don't get involved."

Where can you begin? If you're thinking nationally, join a nursing organization or committee. But one example is the National Quality Forum, which strives to improve national healthcare by improving standards and goals. There was one nurse on staff when the forum was founded in 1999; now there are eight. The forum's goals include improvement of overall population health, coordination of care, improving end-of-life care and the elimination of overuse.

At the local level, you can volunteer to teach CPR in your local community once a month. Find out who your congressperson is and offer up healthcare stats or anecdotes from your own practice for that person to use in speeches and for decision-making. Better yet, zero in on a local politician who's running for the first time and offer to lend your expertise. If and when that person is elected, he or she will seek you out.

"Nurses can't just show up; they have to be part of a quality initiative," said Farquar. "Don't get distracted by paper, paper, paper. Focus on value, value, value."

What can you do on a more passive level? "People are always looking," said Farquar. "You always have to be a representative of the nursing community." Also, "do not bad-mouth nursing," said Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, CEO, National League for Nursing.

"Your influence is not just at the bedside," said Farquar. "It's throughout the whole country."

National Quality Forum

American Nurses Association

National League for Nursing 

For a complete list of nursing organizations, click here.

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