While the 2016 presidential campaign continues to dominate headlines, the outcome of critical races in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate could dramatically alter Washington’s political landscape. Through your advocacy and engagement, registered nurses (RNs) across the country can help shape the next Congress and its healthcare agenda.
With Republican incumbents in the upper chamber campaigning for reelection in a number of key battleground states, control of the Senate hangs in the balance. Democrats could retake the Senate with victories in five of the contested races currently up for grabs in such states as Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. While as many as 40 House races may be closely decided in November, Republicans currently hold a distinct majority, 246-188, and are likely to maintain control of the lower chamber.
With election season in full swing, lawmakers increasingly are turning their attention homeward. As a member of the most trusted profession in the nation—and a voter—you have a powerful voice, both in the public square and at the ballot box. Take time to meet with your senators and representatives during the summer while they are home campaigning for your support.
This summer, important work in Washington remains. Please share your insight with elected officials about the following:
• staffing levels in your setting and why legislation is needed to ensure a safer work environment
for you and your patients
• the leading role nurses play in responding to such public health crises as Zika virus and the opioid epidemic
• importance of allowing advanced practice RNs (APRNs) to practice to the full extent of their education and training in all settings, including where APRNs are still unable to certify their patients for Medicare’s home health benefit.
Funding in the balance
As we approach the end of the fiscal year, Congress again will be tasked with funding the government for the following year. While past debates have brought tense showdowns over cuts, spending priorities, and the debt limit, a 2-year budget compromise struck last year should limit the risk of a government shutdown this year. Still, tough negotiations are ahead and your voice is critical to ensuring that we secure appropriate funding for nursing workforce development programs, protect the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality from permanent cuts, and preserve vital investments in our healthcare system.
Whether it means working in your hometown to help reelect a champion of the profession, advocating for nursing priorities with your elected officials, or casting your vote on election day, be sure to make your voice heard over the coming months. Look to the American Nurses Association for helpful resources and support in your advocacy efforts. Together we can work to ensure that Congress understands the critical contributions of nursing and continues to strive to improve our nation’s healthcare system for providers and patients alike.
Tim Casey is the senior associate director and Liza Heavener is the senior political action specialist in Government Affairs for ANA.