Texas Nurses Show Advocacy in Action by Bringing the Message Home to Policymakers

October 28, 2019 by Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

Let whoever is in charge keep this simple question in her head (not, how can I always do this right thing myself, but) how can I provide for this right thing to be always done?

Florence Nightingale, 1958
alec stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

As the largest ONS chapter in the United States with more than 2,000 members, the Houston ONS Chapter (HCONS) is primed to make an impact with the state’s lawmakers.

In August 2019, chapter members did just that, combining forces with other local chapters for a pilot event featuring ONS policy education and advocacy training deep in the heart of Texas. Almost 100 ONS members participated to get support and education to speak with decision makers about the needs of the profession as well as the patients oncology nurses serve.

Your Voice Is Bigger Than Texas

Planning Team Leader Roxy Blackburn, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, OCN®, and HCONS President Krissy Doyle, MSN, RN, OCN®, NE-BC, launched the first session with a unique perspective on the ONS’s ever-evolving role in activism. ONS Past President and former CEO Paula Rieger, DNP, RN, CAE, FAAN, provided the organizational history of ONS’s involvement in advocacy, explaining, “ONS’s national leadership recognized that to make a real difference in policy, we had to create and invest in a Washington, DC, office to add the oncology nurse’s voice to important healthcare legislation. And that is exactly what the Board did.”

health policy

ONS members Diane Barber, PhD, ANP-BC, AOCNP®, Kimberly Curtin, DNP, APRN, ACNS-BC, CCRN, CEN, CNL, and Loretta Williams, PhD, APRN, OCN®, AOCN®, Houston-area nurses who have carried the message to both Washington, DC, and the Austin, TX, state capitol, spoke about their evolutions from nurse to advocate. Their lessons shared real-world examples of how nurses can directly affect legislation and regulatory initiatives.

“Walking the halls of the U.S. Congress and meeting with my own federal representatives was empowering. It gave me the confidence to speak with the authority I have as a nurse and educate elected officials on patient-centered care,” Williams said.

Parade of Policymakers Showcases Support

Texas State Representative Stephanie Klick, BSN, held the crowd’s attention by reporting that as one of only two nurses in the Texas State House, she was often called on by her colleagues to interpret how legislation could affect patients—and to examine the personal health issues of her Texas colleagues.

In a surprise gesture, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D) sent her district director to present a congressional proclamation in support of HCONS’s advocacy day. Officially signed and sealed with a congressional stamp, the recognition is a testament to nurses and their continued level of trust and integrity by the American public.

Finally, the highlight of the event was from freshman U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw (R), a cosponsor of ONS’s signature legislation on palliative care, a supporter of oral parity for cancer drugs, and a promoter for more innovation in the healthcare system. Representative Crenshaw spoke from the heart about his mother’s losing battle with cancer and how much he respects oncology nurses for their dedication to patient-centered care.

Advancing the Advocacy Agenda

Chapter events like this one are only the starting point. To continue its work with local, state, and federal officials, the HCONS board created a Health Policy Liaison Committee.

“Perhaps this education and training day will become an annual event. Regardless, it is now a model for other chapters in what is possible in advocacy and health policy,” Doyle said.

If your chapter is interested in holding a similar meeting, contact ONS at help@ons.org to begin the conversation about how the Society can support your advocacy work.


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