NEW YORK NURSE: May 2011
by Erin Silk
On April 12, more than 2,100 nurses and nursing students turned out to advocate in Albany for NYSNA’s top nursing legislative priorities at Lobby Day 2011.
Attendees from as far away as Montauk Point and Buffalo to as close as the Capitol Region were welcomed in the Convention Center of the Empire State Plaza where NYSNA President Karen Ballard told the enthusiastic crowd “Nurses are consistently the largest group to lobby the Capitol – ever!”
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Orange, Sullivan) delivered the keynote for the day, urging nurses to continue to make their voices heard on important healthcare issues. Gunther, who is also a registered nurse, has more than twenty-nine years of experience in the healthcare field and is a co-sponsor of many of the bills addressing NYSNA’s priority legislative issues.
NYSNA’s Governmental Affairs team provided the audience with an overview of New York’s current political climate and shared valuable tips for productive meetings with legislators, including how to present nursing’s agenda in a short amount of time. NYSNA’s Director of Governmental Affairs Shaun Flynn quelled fears of intimidation by reminding the nurses that, “You know more about health care than your legislator and the more confident you are, the more likely they are to listen.”
In a brief role-play, Tracy Tress of lobbying firm Malkin & Ross, Flynn, and NYSNA’s Grassroots Organizer Kristin Abrams demonstrated effective and ineffective legislative visits, complete with how to avoid the brush-off from legislators by keeping them on topic, and following through with contact after the meeting.
Armed with the ins-and-outs of lobbying, members, students and first-time attendees headed to the Capitol in a sea of red NYSNA t-shirts.
Students from Fulton-Montgomery Community College (FMCC) in Johnstown shared concerns with Senator Hugh Farley (R-Fulton, Montgomery, Saratoga, Schenectady) of their sense of the issues as nursing students. One student explained to the senator, “The issue of staffing ratios is already important to me. As a student nurse, I witness RNs who are overburdened with patients and it can be a turnoff to the profession.”
Educational advancement for nurses was also on the mind of students. Pursuing a master’s degree is a priority for Sage Graduate School of Nursing student Melissa VanSlyke, who explained “I know I need more education. Not only do my patients deserve it, but I owe it to myself to increase opportunity for the future.”
Nursing student Stephanie Molina of FMCC is also in favor of educational advancement and has plans to become a nurse educator. She says she learned of the shortage of professors from her mentors. “There has to be someone to teach the next generation of nurses, and I want to be that person,” Molina said.