Nurses are trusted health care experts. One way for you to affect change in the health care system is to become involved in national advocacy efforts. By speaking out on behalf of women and newborns, you can serve as a valuable source of information for your elected leaders and their staff.
If you can’t get to Washington DC, you can – and should – still participate in the legislative process. Members of Congress return to their states/districts on a regular basis. In general, they leave Washington, DC for religious and federal holidays, as well as the month of August. Regardless of the location, a face-to-face meeting makes your issue more memorable. Remember, you can make a difference!
Before you Begin
- Identify your federal elected officials by visiting the AWHONN Legislative Action Center. Enter your zip code in the white box and click “Go.”
- Visit the individual web pages of your Members of Congress for a list of all of their offices. Identify the office location that is best suited to your needs and call it. Identify yourself as a constituent and a nurse, and ask to speak to the scheduler to set-up a meeting.
- Once connected to the scheduler, again identify yourself as a constituent and a nurse, and say that you would like to request a meeting with the Member of Congress to discuss “XYZ.” Keep your request to one specific issue (e.g., maternal mortality).
- Consider going to the meeting with a small team of nurses or other health care experts to better drive home your key messages.
Prepare for the Meeting
- Once you have scheduled an appointment, please contact Kerri Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-261-2427 for talking points and the most up-to-date status on this legislation.
- Browse your legislator’s website. It will feature key policy initiatives, a biography, Committee assignments, and recent speeches.
At the Meeting
- Members of Congress have very full schedules. Keep in mind:
o If you are even a few minutes late, you may miss an opportunity to meet. Plan to arrive 5 – 10 minutes early.
o You will likely have no more than 15 minutes with the legislator. Be polite and succinct.
o Schedules change. Be flexible.
o You may meet with the legislator’s aide. This is fairly common; do not be disappointed. These aides are experts in their respective fields and advise the legislator how to vote.
- Bring your business card to the meeting. Exchange cards with each of the meeting participants.
- Remember to use stories from your experience with patients to highlight your key messages.
- If you are asked a question and you do not know the answer, it is best to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you.”
- Ask if the legislator is hosting any nearby roundtables on health care issues or town hall forums. Consider attending.
- Don’t be shy. Ask to take a photo with the legislator.
After the Meeting
- Follow up after the meeting with a quick email, thanking the participants for their time. Offer yourself as a resource in the future.
- Maintain the relationship with the legislator by attending town hall meetings or other forums where you will have an opportunity to interact.
- Consider a follow-up meeting(s).