Advocate in Your Own Backyard

Advocacy is a pillar for both ONS and me, personally. As a professor, organizer, chapter leader, and now ONS president, engagement in oncology nursing issues is an essential part of what I do and who I am. In March 2019, I accompanied ONS staff along with my ONS Pittsburgh Chapter colleague, Grace Campbell, PhD, MSW, RN, CRRN, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, to meet with Congressional Representative Connor Lamb’s (D-PA) district office director.

Readied with our ONS folder filled with the latest federal legislation, we introduced ourselves, our specialty areas, and our commitment to the profession. The representative’s mother is a retired nurse, so the connection resonated immediately with his staff. We began by reinforcing Lamb’s support for affordable and accessible health care—particularly for patients with cancer and survivors. We also spoke about the treatments available at local hospitals and university centers. That quickly led into our ONS health policy agenda and the list of requests we brought, including: 

  • Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (H.R. 647) with 92 cosponsors that passed unanimously in the House in summer 2018. It was recently reintroduced, and we look forward to the further advancement of this legislation in this congressional session.
  • Cancer Drug Parity Act (H.R. 1730) to correct inconsistent insurance reimbursement for oral cancer therapies for individuals with health plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
  • Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act (H.R. 5160) to support Medicare reimbursement for cancer providers who develop treatment and survivorship plans with patients with cancer
  • Lymphedema Treatment Act (H.R. 930/S. 497 in the 115th Congress) to provide Medicare coverage for compression therapy supplies for individuals with lymphedema

We also spoke about Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development to ensure adequate numbers for nursing staff and patient ratios. We encouraged Representative Lamb to join both the Congressional Nursing Caucus and the Congressional Cancer Congress. Although the staff gave no firm commitments at the meeting, our job was to reach out and introduce ONS’s legislative agenda and educate the staff on the role of the nurse in cancer care.

During our visit, we made the ask and plan to build on that conversation. The next meeting will likely be with Representative Lamb himself at the ONS national office. Each connection is a step forward in helping elected officials better understand what we do. I encourage all our chapters to contact to secure a similar meeting with your own representative’s office. Share your voice and help ONS make a difference.