NEW YORK NURSE: May 2011
by Karen A. Ballard, MA, RN, FAAN, President
Let’s all take this opportunity to wish NYSNA a happy and glorious 110th organizational birthday. Birthdays provide us with the opportunity to reflect on “how we are doing,” examine our strengths and weaknesses, and plan our goals for the future.
NYSNA, the oldest and largest state member of the American Nurses Association, reached this impressive milestone on April 16. As nurses in the 21st century, we owe our founding nurse leaders (see March 2011, NY Nurse) our profound thanks for providing the blueprint for a professional nurses association as well as nursing licensure, education and practice in New York state.
Throughout the year, NYSNA – its Board of Directors, members and staff – have many opportunities to advocate for patients and advance the profession. Last month, NYSNA hosted it largest Lobby Day, ever! More than 2,100 registered nurses and nursing students assembled in the Capitol to make nursing’s voice heard in the hallways of the NYS Legislature. And, if the legislators did not hear us, they could not miss seeing us, as we proudly wore NYSNA red t-shirts everywhere that we went!
NYSNA’s annual Lobby Day is often a very long day for most of us as we get up early and travel from the Niagara Frontier, the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, Central New York, the Adirondacks and the Catskills, the Hudson River Valley, New York City, Long Island, and many other locales. The challenge becomes how to make lobbying an effective, educational experience for attendees and legislators. But we also work to make Lobby Day fun. One is never bored, always learning something new, establishing and rekindling professional friendships, and becoming infused with the inspiring and energetic spirit of the assembled nurses.
Nurses who lobby “get” the importance of using their voices to deliver nursing’s message on vital issues to legislators. This year we focused on educational advancement (BSN in 10); staffing ratios; safe patient handling, and bullying in the workplace, our newest legislative endeavor. I urge all NYSNA members to read the extensive coverage of Lobby Day 2011 later in this magazine.
I hope that through this column, and the pictures and articles on Lobby Day, you can appreciate the extensive sharing of the spirit that occurs. The spirit is energizing and tangible. While our founding nurse leaders never had the experience of assembling in the state’s unique “Egg,” one often feels their presence in the meeting room as the excitement of the current nurse activists builds during the lobbying orientation. It is a unique coming together as nurses and nursing students learn how to communicate with legislators on issues that NYSNA is supporting.
Never underestimate the impact of one nurse convincing a legislator to vote on moving a bill out of committee to the floor of the Assembly or Senate for a vote. Because, quite simply, bills that do not make it off a committee agenda, never get voted on by the legislature, and never get signed by the governor to become law. So, remember to use your nursing voice at Lobby Day and throughout the year – never miss an opportunity to talk with a legislator – in the local district or in Albany. As Florence Nightingale counseled earlier nurses: “So, never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard seed germinates and roots itself.”