By Brian Highhouse, RN, BSN, OCN®
I was honored and thrilled to represent the Oncology Nursing Society at this year’s One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) lobby day during National Nurses Week on May 10th 2016. For those unfamiliar with OVAC, it “is a collaboration of national non-profit organizations representing millions of Americans, delivering a unified message to Congress and the White House on the need for increased cancer-related appropriations.” Although my trip to Washington, DC, was a bit of a whirlwind, as I tried to minimize my time away from work and family, I found it to be totally rewarding.
I arrived in DC in the morning after a short flight from New Hampshire and attended the training day to prepare. The OVAC organizers did a wonderful job explaining the process on how to conduct a meeting with our federal representatives, giving us a good overview on cancer funding history. This led to a better upstanding of the current message or “ask” that we were delivering the following day. It was a diverse group of volunteers and staff from 38 states with varying levels of experience, all of whom had some kind of connection to cancer.
The next part of the training day allowed us to meet other members from our individual states and organize ourselves to practice telling our stories. The bottom line was that we learned we were not just there to ask for funding and support, but we were to personalize the need with our own stories. Whether being a survivor, caregiver, or healthcare provider, our stories will be remembered by representatives as they vote on a budget or appropriations bills.
The meetings on lobby day were organized for us. We had 30 minutes to introduce ourselves, tell our stories, and ask for the support for funding the National Health Institute and the National Cancer Institute for cancer research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for cancer screening and early detection, and full funding for the National Cancer Moonshot initiative. Included in the packet we left behind were funding request, statics of our state cancer rates, polling information of the overwhelming bipartisan support that cancer research has as a national priority, and information on Title VIII nursing funding that explained the predicted increase in cancer rates and nursing shortages, as well as requesting for nursing scholarships and loan forgiveness.
This was a wonderful opportunity to advocate for the cause and our meetings were extremely well received. Lobby day was really just a start to an ongoing two-way relationship with congressional staff and federal representatives. We’ll continue lobbying for ongoing support and communication regarding cancer funding and related issues. If you’re interested in health care policy, come join us as we continue to lobby for ONS policies.