Political power. It's what allows individuals, organizations, and associations to ensure that elected officials address their concerns. With issues such as health care reform, patients' rights, and access to care at the top of the political agenda at the Capitol and in the White House, turning on your political power as a nurse has never been more important.
It is critical that nurses speak up-about quality patient care, adequate staffing, safe workplaces, and the multitude of concerns you and your colleagues face every day. Who better to advocate to Congress about the need for quality health care than those who are on the front lines?
Your letters, phone calls, and visits to members of Congress truly make the difference. There are many ways to make your voice heard:
Visit your members of CongressMembers of Congress are often available for meetings with constituents when they are at home in their district. To set up a meeting with your member of Congress, contact the district office and speak with the scheduler. Attending the town meetings that members of Congress often hold during congressional recess is another great way to learn where your member of Congress stands on the issues important to you.
Make phone callsGet the phone numbers for members of Congress from the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121, government pages of your phone book, House and Senate websites www.house.gov and www.senate.gov, or public policy staff.
Send e-mail and write lettersBecause of the anthrax decontamination process now in place, delivery of U.S. mail to Congress and the White House is routinely delayed by as much as three months. Using e-mail or sending a fax is really the best way to make sure your voice will be heard in time to make a difference.
Tips on effective e-mail and letter writing:
Be brief Short, direct letters are the most effective. Be specific Deal with just one subject or issue in your letter, and state your topic clearly in the first paragraph.
Be personal -Letters are most effective when they reflect your personal experiences and views in your own words. Form letters don't carry as much weight as a letter that you have written yourself.
Be sure to give your name and address.Legislators and other decision makers pay most attention to letters that come from their constituents-people who will be voting for or against them-so it's important to let them know you are from their district. Including your contact information also enables elected officials to respond to your concerns.
Be persistent-Write often, especially to legislators who are undecided on an issue.