By Samantha Karam, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Public Affairs Director
Nurse Wins Democrat Nomination for U.S. House of Representatives
Cori Bush, a nurse and Black Lives Matter activist, beat U.S. Representative William Lacy Clay (D-MO), a sitting 20-year incumbent, to win the Democratic nomination in St. Louis, MO. Bush will be the newest nurse to U.S. Congress, should she win her seat in November, which is highly likely. She’d join the ranks of U.S. Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) to bring a critical nursing perspective directly to the United States’ legislative branch.
Bush unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and also challenged Clay in 2018. Both candidates support progressive causes like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. However, Bush argued that it was time for a change and criticized Clay for taking campaign contributions from political action committees and corporations.
Clay’s achievements include introducing legislation to create a federal standard requiring use of force to be used as a last resort, and an executive order he had worked on with President Barack Obama to limit the flow of surplus military equipment to local police forces, which President Trump later rescinded. He is the third Democrat to lose his seat to a more progressive challenger.
Bush’s political platform centers around ending hateful, targeted discrimination; providing supportive resources for low-income communities; advocating for education; and economic justice for all.
“I fight because I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, to be burdened with student and medical debt, and to live day to day in St. Louis where poverty is violence, crime is rampant, and our unhoused community grows daily,” Bush said. “We need a champion for policies that will affect residents of Missouri’s first district directly. I am that champion.”
Nurse Scientists Define Their Role
Nurses have gained media attention and public support for their work on the front lines of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. However, Kristen R. Choi, PhD, MS, RN, and Anna Dermenchyan, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, recently highlighted how little the public understands about nursing.
“In intensive care units, 86% of patient care time comes from nurses, while only 13% comes from physicians,” the two said. “Nurse scientists are rare, which may be another reason why many people haven’t heard of nursing science. Less than 1% of U.S. nurses hold a PhD. That is a problem for both research and patient care.”
According to Choi and Dermenchyan, unclear definitions increase the public’s lack of understanding about nurses.
“Despite being the largest health care profession in the U.S., with almost 4 million nurses, we are hard-pressed to find almost anyone who can articulate exactly what nursing is and what nurses are doing in the fight against COVID-19,” they wrote. “We define nursing like this: Nursing is the diagnosis and treatment of the human response to health and disease. This is distinct from medicine, which is about the diagnosis and treatment of disease itself.”
They also credited gender bias as another reason people misunderstand nursing science.
“Gender bias in science is well documented. Women scientists receive fewer research grants, fewer scientific publications, lower pay, hold fewer academic leadership roles, and are less likely to have their science covered in the media,” they wrote.
It has taken a global pandemic, but nurses—the most trusted profession for almost 20 years—are getting some good publicity. Recent media attention has secured the nursing field as leaders on the front lines, particularly during COVID-19, as healthcare experts who literally are putting themselves in harm’s way. Personal protective equipment access and scope of practice are topical issues that demonstrate how nurses continue to put their patients first. Nurses will be there as we flatten the curve and begin the vaccination process.
Women in Congress Are Still Confronting Gender Harassment
Today, the U.S. Congress has more women members than ever before. However, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is one of many female Caucus leaders speaking out recently about the verbal abuse they face at the tongues of their male colleagues on Capitol Hill. Fellow Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL) allegedly made vulgar remarks to Ocasio-Cortez during an altercation on the Capitol steps in July.
Other women lawmakers have reported comparable harassment. Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) has been stopped twice from entering the House chamber twice since joining Congress in 2013. The first time was when she first joined Congress. The second time it happened, she was already a seasoned congresswoman.
“I was walking in with a male colleague. They just looked at us together, assumed we were a couple, and he was the congressman and that I was a spouse going onto the floor when it wasn’t permitted,” Clark said.
Clark and U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty (D-OH) each recalled the lack of recognition and being warned about certain male lawmakers and to not get in elevators with them.
U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) blasted U.S. Representative Raúl Labrador (R-ID) on Twitter after he allegedly told her learn how to read. Jayapal also described another situation when U.S. Representative Don Young (R-AK) called her “young lady” then said she didn’t “know a damn thing.”
“You’re always aware of the disrespect. ‘Is this because I’m a woman? Is this because I’m a person of color?’ It does take a toll on you,” Jayapal said. “At the same time, I think it’s why we’re so powerful in what we fight for. It’s at the forefront of our minds and our policy decisions.”
U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) said she hopes that the culture of politics can become more progressive as the new class of female legislators take their place.
“We have more women in Congress now than we’ve ever had. Less than a decade ago, they built a women’s bathroom off the House floor. Before that, it was just for men. Simple things like that just make you aware of how far we’ve come,” Lawrence said.
That this kind of behavior happens in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Congress is hard to believe, especially today. It’s a good reminder that the change is sweeping across the country has not been fully embraced by those in power. More work needs to be done, and women and the men who support them need to raise their voice. One person can make a difference; many can change the world.