Going to Capitol Hill when advocating for a cause or working to get a Bill passed is critical. Being visible on the Hill allows you to meet and talk face to face with Legislative Aides, Legislative Directors and sometimes if they are in town, the actual Members of House and the Senate.

I have to say that I love to go to Capitol Hill to meet with our legislative leaders. It gives you respect for the process. Working to get a Bill pass in the U.S. Congress is a long and sometimes messy process. I read a quote Members of Congress like to repeat that is attributed to Otto von Bismarck, it reads: “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.” In other words, the legislative process, though messy and sometimes unappetizing, can produce healthy, wholesome results.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to join colleagues from the National Nursing Network on one of our visit to Capitol Hill. The National Nursing Network is a grassroots organization working on a House and Senate Bill called the National Nurse Act. The Bill would designate the Chief Nurse Officer of Public Health as the National Nurse for Public Health. The Bill’s goal is to raise the visibility of the Chief Nurse Officer and the visibility of the nursing workforce (now at four million strong) to address public health issues impacting our country.

Here is an example we used to give an idea of the cost-benefit ratio that could result if the National Nurse Act was enacted and the nursing workforce could be united in efforts to educate the public to improve their health. Read it over for yourself and just imagine the outcomes if even a portion of the nursing workforce were activated.

Type 2 diabetes is an example of one preventable disease that impacts the health of millions of people. The National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017 reports that in 2017, the most recent year that statistics were collected 30.3 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association released new research on March 22, 2018, estimating the total costs of diagnosed diabetes have risen to $327 billion in 2017. This is an average cost of $10,792 per patient. Given that there are 84.1million people at risk for diabetes even if only half of them eventually develop the disease, additional cost for treatment would be 42 million times $10,792, an increase of over $453 billion! If the National Nurse for Public Health could engage the nursing workforce in delivering proven successful programs that work to prevent Type 2 DM and could prevent 1% of those at-risk from developing diabetes, this would represent a savings of 1% of 84 million times $10,792, or about $9 BILLION.

We used examples like this when we met with Staffers in the various offices. This example showed how the National Nurse Act if enacted, could impact the cost of healthcare and the health and quality of life of citizens’ in our country. We also reviewed the National Nurse Act with them to bring them up to date on any changes and that have taken place since the Bill was re-introduced. Our goal was to get as many Representatives and Senators to sign on and support the Bill.

During our visits, we take the time to listen and to find out what is important to the individual member of Congress and try to tie it into how the Bill will help their cause. We have learned over the years if we can make the National Nurse Act relevant to their causes, we can gain support. The staffers tell us over and over again, that the National Nurse Act is new, innovative and common sense legislation. In our meetings, we heard true concern from various offices about the measles epidemic, the opioid problem and the rising costs of medications such as Insulin. Through examples like the one above, we were able to show how energizing the nursing workforce to educate the public in local communities could address many problems in a new and innovative way.

Time is of the essence when ‘on the Hill’ as staffers are very busy and have limited time. Being prepared is critical. Teri Mills, the President of the National Nursing Network does a great job of organizing the trip. She makes all the appointments and assigns visits for Board Members and the Advisory Team to make. Packets of information are also put together that we can leave with the people we visit. We also have talking points to keep us on track and answers to issues we have heard that may need to be corrected.

On our most recent visits, we had over 50 appointments scheduled over 3 days. If you have ever been on Capitol Hill, you know the offices for Member of the House of Representatives are located in three different buildings, the Rayburn Building, the Longworth Building, and Cannon Building. Senators are located in the Hart Building, the Dirksen Building, and Russell Building. To get to see every office, we broke up into teams. We kept in touch via our cell phones and met for lunch so we could report on our meetings and discuss any challenges we had. We also have small copy books and one person was assigned to take notes and get Business Cards so that once we were home, we could send thank you emails and follow up on any requests we had from a specific office.

In one of our visits we were told that of the 5,140 bills and resolutions that come before Congress each year, only about 5% will be signed into law. Staying focused, and on message is key. The Bill has tremendous support from Members of Congress as well as Nursing Organizations. As a result, we are hoping to see progress on Bill during the 116 Congress.

How can you help? Keep in mind anyone can support the National Nurse Act. You do not need to be a nurse, just have a desire to see something new that will help improve the delivery of care and slow healthcare spending.

Ten tips to support the National Nurse Act:

  1. Get to know the National Nursing Network and the National Nurse Act.
  2. Visit the website and click around to the various pages so you can see what the Bill is about and how you can support the Bill with your Members of Congress.
  3. Under the Take Action Tab, you can find how to reach your Representative and your Senator.
  4. There are also sample letters and scripts you can use when you reach out to your Representatives and the Senate to let them know you support the National Nurse Act.
  5. Your voice is critical to getting Members of Congress to support the Bill. They are more prone to support the Bill when they hear from YOU, their constituents.
  6. It only takes a few minutes to call your Representative/Senator.
  7. When you call a Member of Congress Office, the person who answers the phone will ask you your name and what you are calling about. They have to have this information as they need to record all calls and what they are about. Give them your name, your phone number and that you want to let the Member know you support the Bill.
  8. If you are calling a Member in the House of Representatives the Bill you will refer to as H.R. 1597.
  9. When you call your U.S. Senator, refer to the Bill as S. 696.
  10. The House Bill and the Senate Bills are identical. It is a bipartisan bill so we are looking for both Democrats and Republicans in both the House of Representatives and the U. S Senate to support the Bill.

Thank you for reading Nurse Advocate. I hope this post provides you with some insights on how to advocate a cause or a Bill that you are passionate about. It takes a lot of work, but it is worth it!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Have a good week!

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