By ONS member Christopher R. Friese, PhD, RN

Congressional champions are hard to find. Certainly, elected officials are eager to stand up for a variety of health, provider, and patient advocacy issues that pull at our heart strings.  But to dig deep and find real solutions—that’s what’s found in the rare leaders who commit to arduous details. 

Not surprising though, one member of Congress did just that. It should come as no surprise that she is a nurse by trade. Representative Lois Capps of California retired from the House of Representatives in December 2016, after nearly 20 years of service. 

In a bittersweet ceremony, the Nursing Community, an organization of which ONS is an active member, honored Congresswoman Capps for her service, leadership, and courage to stand up for nurses. In the time of her service, Capps had fought against those who sought to balance budget sheets by cutting programs that assist nurses. She also authored legislation for workforce safety and education, was a voice for Title VIII funding, and cared more for patients than political empowerment. 

Her vision and voice will be missed in the halls of congress. Now is the time for nurses to cultivate newly elected officials and educate them on these important issues. The invaluable voice and vision of nurses can work to carry the mantle that Representative Capps established through her nearly 20 years of service. 

During her remarks to room filled to capacity off Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Capps reiterated the charge to her colleagues, “Nurses can and should be members of Congress!” It was a profession she served well, before and during her elected years, but she still proudly refers to herself first and foremost as a nurse. Congresswoman Capps’s kind of coordinated-care approach to legislation will be hard to replace, but nurses everywhere are at the ready to see it through.