California ENA Legislative Day 2018: Using Our Voices for Change

‘Tis the Season to Advocate!

California ENA Chapters were busy this month as we headed to Sacramento on March 21st for Cal ENA’s 2018 Legislative Day to advocate for California emergency nurses. I personally went as a representative from the East Bay ENA Chapter to knock on our state legislatures’ doors to voice our concerns about the evolving face of healthcare and what those implications mean for nurses and the patients that we serve.

California ENA Legislative Day 2018

A diverse group of nurse leaders representing ENA chapters from across California met in Sacramento on March 21 to lead the charge to advocate for California emergency nursing. Al and Leslie Duke, co-chairs for the California ENA Government Affairs Committee, put together a fantastic morning of education to get our Cal ENA advocates oriented to best practices in speaking to state leaders and the California state legislature works.

Remember “I’m just a bill!” from School House Rock? It still applies in 2018.

Speakers from the California Hospital Association, California ACEP and the office of Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez spoke with an engaged group of Cal ENA members. After a morning of lecture, the group headed to the Capitol to knock on doors and speak to their state legislatures related to Cal ENA’s support in continued promotion of safe practice and safe care in California pre-hospital settings and emergency departments.

After a day of treading the halls of the Capitol, California ENA members ended the day with some community outreach by providing sidewalk stroke education for local Sacramento residents. Leslie Duke reported that residents actively thanked our Cal ENA members for their work and education efforts!

Using Our Voices

Nursing is a hard job that leaves many frustrated and burnt out due to many working and health system conditions that seem so out of nursing control. Nurses can sometimes feel like just a small piece of a giant healthcare machine that is about to run off the rails. By taking part in California ENA’s Legislative Day, it gives ER nurses an opportunity to meet face-to-face with lawmakers who can make a real difference in how our healthcare system works.

How Do I Become a Nurse Advocate?

First, you need to find a cause that you feel passionate about. Whether it is working to decrease violence in the workplace, supporting expanding EMS protocols or allowing nurse practitioners to work to their full scope of practice, pick a topic that gets you EXCITED. There are a multitude of issues that can be supported. Look around. Talk to colleagues. Do some research. Find a cause that speaks to you and gets you riled up.

Next, find a group to advocate with you. Advocacy work can be wildly exciting, but also it is really hard. You are often in the trenches, knocking on doors, making phone calls, passing out fliers and collecting signatures. It normally takes a very long time to see results. That’s why joining the Emergency Nurses Association in working on the same cause as you can help support not only your work, but keep your passion going when the going gets tough.

Make some new friends. Frequently people working in organizations that support causes that you are passionate about will be filled with like-minded, engaged people. Get to know them! These are people who are supporting the same issues as you. Get their contact info. Make a coffee date. Swap stories. I have made some incredible friends through my work with the Emergency Nurses Association (SHOUTOUT TO MY EASTBAY ENA & CAL ENA FAMILY). You never know who you might meet when working with a new group.

Be an advocate of change. While a lot of advocacy work is small steps to the big goal, know that you are working to make things better. What you say to government representatives at all levels can shape policy and legislation that may have a direct effect on healthcare.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. ER nursing is hard.

ER nursing is so hard. It is so easy to get lost in the minutia that we forget why we ever got into this crazy career in the first place. I find that advocacy work helps re-ground my nursing perspective and helps me remember that ER nursing is a powerful and meaningful profession. Nurses are the most trusted profession in the United States! We need to use that position to advocate for changes that will improve our working conditions and the outcomes for our patients. Being a nurse advocate helps me as a nurse, but also as a person.

What is good for nurses, is good for everyone.

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