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Nurses mobilize for health care advocacy on Capitol Hill

The 2018 American Nurses Association (ANA) Hill Day started off strong on June 21 in Washington, DC, as ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, rallied nurses and other participants to use their collective power to create change.

At a breakfast briefing held before heading to Capitol Hill for 277 scheduled visits with members of Congress and staff, approximately 300 participants from 45 states reviewed current legislative actions and were also welcomed by Cipriano.

“Your passion and commitment are energizing and inspiring, and I am deeply grateful for your advocacy for your patients and the profession at the bedside and beyond,” Cipriano said. Nurses know how to tell the story about key nursing issues, including the urgent need for safe staffing, workforce development funding, gun violence prevention, and opioid addiction treatment.

After Cipriano’s remarks, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) addressed the group about the critical role nurses play in both patient care and advocacy. “Nurses are the beating heart of our health care system,” Tonko said. “It is imperative that we craft public policy that supports nurses.”

He emphasized the importance of safe staffing, remarking that unreasonable staffing plans put patients and nurses at risk. “We need to make sure nurses have a seat at the table” when staffing decisions are made, he added. Tonko, a champion for nurses, is the lead sponsor for the Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act of 2017, which would make medically-assisted-treatment (MAT) prescribing authority for nurse practitioners and physician assistants permanent and extend the ability to prescribe for certified registered nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse-midwives. “We must invest in and empower our nursing workforce,” he said. Tonko also expressed support for the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act.

The opioid crisis loomed large over the briefing breakfast; omnibus opioid legislation is expected to be voted on June 22. Hill Day participants were encouraged by Tonko to “storm the hill and don’t take no for an answer” in regard to the opioid crisis. “We must do a better job of preventing addiction and providing recovery treatment,” he said.

Hill Day participants were also encouraged to speak to their representatives about funding gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the CDC is no longer restricted from researching gun violence, there is currently no funding allocated for it to do so.

In the wake of ANA’s statements on the separation of migrant families and children, participants expressed their desire to discuss immigration issues during their Hill Day meetings, and were appreciative of ANA’s swift response to represent the voice of nursing.

What’s next

Today ANA and representatives from its organizational affiliates, comprised of specialty nursing organizations, are meeting to share updates on their programs and discuss how they can best collaborate on issues of mutual concern.

Stay up to date and join the conversation

For news on ANA’s Membership Assembly and related activities, follow us on ANA’s Facebook and Twitter channels. To follow Hill Day, search #ANAHillDay on Twitter.

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