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An experienced nurse's "take" on capitol challenge, 2007.

Let me preface by telling you why I went. I started attending NMNA meetings the summer of 2006. People in the meeting seemed to know people in authority and how to get things done. I had no clue. I have worked at the bedside for 18 years and am accustomed to my colleagues complaining and trying to address issues at a unit and hospital level. But how do you really change your profession? It is not done by complaining and hoping the hospital you work at is going to make your profession better. Each hospital has it's own budget to manage and as a RN you are a small piece of the budget. Hospitals exist to provide acute care and make money, not to enhance the nursing profession. That's their job. I have nothing against hospitals ... I work for one.

I spent seven of my eighteen years as a traveling nurse and the last 10, raising my children. It seemed as I had fallen out of my profession except simply working to survive.

Now with all my children in school, it is time to figure out how does nursing really work.

I recall asking Gloria, privately after the meetings, how do you know who to contact to arrange meetings with the legislators, how do you know who ... how do you know how.... how do you know what to do when........??? I knew so little about how my own profession worked I was embarrassed to ask in front of a group that were true shakers and movers. Gloria told me "Polly, you need to come to "Capital Challenge" in February." I agreed, having no idea what "Capital Challenge" was. My thought was "Who are we challenging up in the capitol and why ?" But trusting these ladies I have come to know over the last 8 months, I blocked February 8 & 9 on my calendar to go to Santa Fe.

I had no idea what to expect.

This is my take on what Capital Challenge is and how it works.

NMNA sponsors a trip offered to nursing students (and anyone who would like to go) to Santa Fe with the intent of educating how bills are made and how laws are made; bills and laws that regulate and govern the profession of nursing and healthcare.

We drove to Santa Fe Community College. In a large conference room, the first of three speakers took the floor. Linda Siegle, the lobbyist for NMNA, NPs, CNMs, and others in NM spoke on how a bill becomes a law. A lobbyist is someone who is paid by a particular group to speak on their behalf and represent that group when bills are being proposed. She started from the basics by educating us on the process of how a bill is introduced to the Senate or House of Representatives.

It was made very clear, that state senators and representatives are ordinary people who are elected by people in their geographical area, to volunteer (THEY ARE NOT PAID) to go to Santa Fe for one month every year and two months every other year to listen to what the people want. These senators and representatives take off from their full time jobs and dedicate their time to making this state work, to listening to concerns and ideas of people in their neighborhood and bringing those concerns and ideas forward to be heard in the round house. Anyone having a concern can tell their legislator about it and he or she can have that concern written nicely into a bill format which will be sponsored (presented in front of the other senators and representatives) by the legislator.

Linda covered the statistics of registered voters in this state. The number of registered voters who are nurses in the state is 1 in 54. That is unbelievable power already in the hands of nurses.

Current bills that are up affecting healthcare were discussed. Our lobbyist watches the bills that are coming through and speak for or against the bill based on what would be in the best interest of nurses. When we nurses cannot be in Santa Fe to speak our opinion about bills we believe to be harmful or beneficial to nursing, we can trust that our lobbyist is doing this on our behalf. Our lobbyist is our always present voice to the government that makes the laws regulating the profession of nursing.

Fran A'Hern-Smith addressed the 110 people present and told us how to contact your legislator. She taught us legislator etiquette. We went over bills that were introduced and that pertain to healthcare. Each of us selected a bill and wrote a letter to our legislator stating our endorsement or opposition for a bill that affected healthcare. These letters were delivered that afternoon to our legislator.

Lastly Mary J. Sletten, a nursing faculty member at Dona Ana Community College (and doctoral student), took the floor and spoke to us about our responsibility and our obligation to be active in our professional organizations. You can't be in nursing and not be involved in politics. With the expanding roles of nursing, we need to dictate and regulate ourselves in our profession. Via the NMNA, we have a voice, we have a lobbyist, we have an opportunity to change the way we work! A great point was brought up, when the federal government wants to know what nurses think about an issue, they call the American Nursing Association and ask " What do nurses think about this?" The U.S. government doesn't call every nurse in the country to ask their opinion on a national issue. Because of the ANA, hospitals must provide a needleless IV systems. This is just one great thing that has come about nationally because of the ANA.

After lunch we boarded the buses chartered to the round house. We went on a tour of the round house, sat in on small committee meetings and then got back on the bus and were shuttled back to Santa Fe. Community College and then drove home. This was a very well organized event.

Capital Challenge was a phenomenal experience!!!!! It provides a window into how bills are made, laws are made, professions are regulated, and obligations we have as professionals. For the first time in my life I wrote a letter to my legislator! Sitting in a small room with legislators, volunteering their time for me (me/we the people), with an opportunity to give my opinion on anything that is being discussed whether it be DWI issues, eminent domain, or healthcare issues, was a beautiful experience. The essence of democracy working in front of me.

Pauline Zelaya RN

District 1--Albuquerque
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Author:Zelaya, Pauline
Publication:New Mexico Nurse
Geographic Code:1U8NM
Date:Apr 1, 2007
Previous Article:Legislative report.
Next Article:Bridging the gap through reform.

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