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The important role of nurses in political action.

"For the remainder of this century, the most worthy goal that nurses can select is that of arousing their passion for a kind of political activism that will make a difference in their own lives and in the life of our society." (Peggy Chinn, 1984)

Those are good words to contemplate as we get ready for another successful GNA Legislative Day at the Capitol on January 28th, and the beginning of what we hope will be a productive and successful legislative session for nurses on the issues which we care most about--both as nurses and as consumers of health care. This will be a very difficult and important legislative session, due to the state's ongoing fiscal crisis, and as nurses, we should be paying careful attention.

I am always both puzzled and disappointed when a nurse fails to understand the meaning and the importance of political action. Recently, I was asked to respond to a member who canceled her membership because she "disagreed with the political affiliations of GNA." She did not specify what political affiliation or beliefs she thought that GNA or ANA held, nor did she respond to my request for further clarification, making it impossible for me to address her concerns. Since other nurses may also be confused on this issue, it seems timely to address the issue of political action.

Neither GNA nor ANA supports, or is affiliated, with any political party. All political activities are carried out by the political action committees (PACs) of both associations. No dues money of any member ever goes to support either PAC. PAC money comes solely from the voluntary contributions of members.

However, both associations have governmental affairs units whose job it is to protect the practice of each and every nurse, whether or not they are members of GNA and ANA, and to monitor any legislation that affects nurses or health care consumers. Neither ANA nor GNA could fulfill their responsibilities to nurses if they did not do so. In the case of ANA, there are paid lobbyists on staff to advocate strongly for nursing's agenda. In the case of GNA, we have two contract lobbyists, as well as volunteer nurse lobbyists who monitor legislation at the Capitol when the Georgia Legislature is in session. Their lobbying efforts are non-partisan, and they talk to legislators of every political view to ensure they are well-educated about the important role that nurses play in health care, and to strongly advocate for the needs of our patients.

The PACs of both groups review the voting records of legislators, and sometimes endorse legislators with either money or a letter of support. These endorsements are based solely on a legislator's support for nursing and our agenda, and not on any political affiliation.

Over the years, depending on which party is in power at either the state or federal level, I have heard complaints from nurses of both parties that GNA is either "too Republican" or "too Democratic." ANA and GNA are neither. Candidates of both parties have received endorsement, depending on whether or not they have been supportive of nursing and are receptive to the concerns of nurses in their districts.

I don't think it is humanly possible for me to agree with every single policy that any group or institution of which I am a member supports--whether it is my church, my workplace, my professional organizations, my political party or even my family. There may have been times over the years when I disagreed with a position that either GNA or ANA held, but on the other hand, if I left either, I would be giving up all of the information, networking and resources that I have access to through my membership, and would be ignoring the many good things that both organizations do for both nurses and health care consumers. More importantly, I would be expecting other nurses to pay to protect my practice, while at the same time weakening their power to do that by my absence. As we all know, there is great power in numbers.

In politics as in life, it is never wise to be a single-issue person or to take your marbles and go home when things don't go your way. On the one hand, if you stay at the table and speak from a position of knowledge and respect for others' opinions, you will most likely get at least some of what you want, and will retain the ability to gain more in the future. If you leave or remain uninvolved, you will get what you contributed--absolutely nothing.

There are many ways to get involved in the political process! Join GNA, join ANA, contribute to GN-PAC, get involved by volunteering on the campaign of a candidate you support. In the meantime, I hope to see all of you this year at GNA Legislative Day at the Capitol.

By Fran Beall, RN, ANP, BC

Fran Beall is current president of the Georgia Nurses Association. Fran is from Bogart, Georgia.
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Title Annotation:President's Message
Author:Beall, Fran
Publication:Georgia Nursing
Date:Feb 1, 2010
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