Alec Stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

ONS, like so many membership organizations with dedicated healthcare interests, oils the gears that move the public policy machine forward. Each shift represents another opportunity for success. One such tactic is working in coalitions, and ONS is a vital member of health advocacy groups in Washington, DC, usually as the only nursing society at the table.

Frequently asked to join initiatives because nursing is the most trusted profession, ONS adds much gravitas to a coalition, so the Society is judicious in selecting causes. With a unique place in the advocacy community, ONS advises in policy issues relating to nursing, cancer, and general health care. 

Nursing Community Coalition (NCC)

Containing more than 60 national nursing organizations representing 4 million nurses, NCC has spent the past decade concentrating on nurse-related legislation. ONS is a member of NCC’s steering committee, helping to prioritize the legislative agenda. 

From federal appropriations for Title VIII funding and research at the National Institute of Health’s (NIH’s) National Institute of Nursing Research to access to care issues and scope of practice, NCC is a recognized voice with the U.S. Congress on a host of issues. Holding congressional briefings, writing policy papers, and sending letters of support, the Coalition ensures that decision makers are aware that nurses “embody the drive and passion to continually improve care for patients, families, and communities.” 

Some of the legislation NCC supports includes:

  • HR 3692: would provide additional flexibility to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders.
  • S 1109: would extend advanced education nursing grants to support clinical nurse specialist programs.
  • S 445: would ensure timely access to home health services for Medicare beneficiaries.  

Speaking for millions of nurses across the United States, the coalition demands that decision makers seriously take into consideration the opinions of healthcare providers. When nurses speak, leaders listen.

One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC)

Sponsored by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, OVAC is comprised of more than 50 organizations. Based in Washington, DC, OVAC convenes monthly meetings, multiple congressional policy briefings, and annual Capitol Hill Days that bring patients and providers to Washington. 

For almost 20 years, OVAC has been the leader in cancer coalition work, and as a member of the executive committee ONS assists in determining the policy agenda and how best to implement grassroots advocacy efforts to ensure success. Primarily concentrating on federal appropriations and the continual fight to ensure funding for cancer research through NIH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), OVAC’s team is well respected because of its diverse membership and its advocacy for accessible and affordable care.

In letters to Congress, OVAC continually asserts that “the progress that has led to medical breakthroughs for treatment and therapies for millions of cancer patients NIH and NCI need an increased, sustainable federal investment. Although Congress has not yet completed the FY 2018 appropriations process, OVAC recommends an increase of at least $2 billion over the FY 2018 level, plus the $215 million increase in 21st Century Cures Act funding for NIH that Congress has already committed to provide in FY 2019.”

Speaking as that one voice, with emotional stories and powerful facts, OVAC commands the respect of congressional staff, who rely on the coalition for expert insight into how federal funding is advancing cancer treatment and cures. Nurses add a poignant perspective about patient-centered care to OVAC’s agenda.

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK)

For more than 20 years, CTFK has been fighting a battle that most believe has already been won. But it has not. As new devices are developed that provide nicotine in unique ways, as marketing to children and teens becomes more sophisticated, and as tobacco companies seek regulatory loopholes to expand their consumer base, CTFK has used the expertise of healthcare providers, patient advocates, and government agencies to secure legislation to ensure that federal agencies such as FDA have the authority to regulate tobacco’s marketing and distribution

As a major national nursing organization, ONS plays a vital role in determining CTFK’s legislative strategy and regulatory responses and interpreting the impact of the larger smoking cessation campaign.

Championing higher age requirements for the purchase of tobacco products at the state legislative level, highlighting flavored tobacco marketing to minors, and enforcing reduced levels of nicotine in cigarettes top the list of crusades CTFK (n.d.) promotes. Nurses know the impact of tobacco on the lives of patients and families, and ONS partners with CTFK to support all efforts to promote smoking cessation.

ONS literally sits at the table in all three coalitions, and the nurse’s voice is powerful. These, and many other coalition partners’ work, are listed on the ONS advocacy page.

As the nexus between nursing and cancer, ONS is well regarded as the expert on issues pertaining to patient-centered care, palliative care, workforce safety, research funding, and nurse education. While remaining true to ONS’s mission, the Society extends a helping hand to other causes outside of oncology. It’s what nurses do: serve as a vital component in coordinated care. Get more information about ONS’s coalition work and join the advocacy efforts.