By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief—Comparing the increase of nurses in Congress in the 2010 midterm elections to the near doubling of the number of women in Congress back in 1992, an article in a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation electronic newsletter last week suggested that perhaps 2010 could be called ‘The Year of the Nurse.’ The article noted that there are now seven nurses in the U.S. House of Representatives—four Democrats and three Republicans—up from three in the previous Congress. This is certainly progress, but we’ve yet to gain a nurse in the U.S. Senate.
Nurses see the results of failed social policies every day. We do tremendous work providing restorative care, teaching self-care practices, and promoting behaviors that will maximize health. But how many of us seriously think of engaging in the politics of health care? Instead of promoting health and changing lives on a case-by-case basis, when you hold political office you can affect the health of an entire population. Nursing education provides us with an incredible set of skills: critical thinking, creative problem solving, people skills, time management, the ability to set priorities and to constantly reevaluate their order—to say nothing of multitasking.
A report in the May issue of AJN describes Project 2012, an initiative at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics that’s encouraging women without a previous career in politics to run for office (its motto is “don’t get mad, get elected”). For a number of reasons detailed in the article, now may be a perfect time for nurses to get elected.
The Future of Nursing report from the Institute of Medicine also points to the policy arena as a critical place where nurses’ voices need to be heard but have mostly been lacking. Marking 2010 as the ‘Year of the Nurse’ should not be considered a culmination but instead indicate the beginning of a trend—with a nurse in the U.S. Senate as the next prize.