ANNA member Ruth Grindinger participated in the Nurse in Washington Internship (NIWI) program in Washington, DC, March 30 through April 1, 2014. Sponsored by the Nursing Organizations Alliance, the NIWI program provides nurses the opportunity to learn how to influence health care through the legislative and regulatory processes. Participants learn from health policy experts and government officials, network with other nurses, and visit members of Congress. Read below to learn more about her NIWI experience.
The NIWI program is a powerful 2.5 days in Washington, DC. There is granite and marble everywhere in our capital city as our nation’s founders built to impress and last. Sunday morning before the conference started I had the chance to walk the Mall from the Capitol Building to the Washington Monument. The egalitarian principles on which our nation was founded are evident by the free admission to each of the museums on the mall. The American History Museum features an emotionally moving exhibit on the Civil Rights movement. The National Gallery has an amazing collection of original Impressionist painters that left me overwhelmed and breathless, having only seen these pictures on a calendar previously. To see the brush and spatula strokes of these masters up close was remarkable.
Money is not supposed to equal power in our country, according to our constitution; rather the benefits of a fruitful society are meant to be shared by all, regardless of individual characteristics. These were the thoughts reinforced for me as I headed into the first NIWI meeting. I thought Washington might intimidate me; instead I felt empowered. This feeling grew throughout my days at NIWI and helped carry me through our visits on Capitol Hill.
The NIWI sessions were inspiring. My first impression was “Wow, I can’t believe I’m sitting in this room with all these powerful nurses.” It made me proud to be a nurse, but I felt a little overwhelmed. Many people there have a high academic standing. I was sitting there with my Associate Degree in Nursing, just starting on a Bachelor’s degree, in a room full of individuals with doctoral degrees. NIWI lifted me from my usual staff level mentality to a level of dedication and passion to the nursing profession that I don’t get to see every day.
I came away having learned these important lessons:
- Knowing the legislative process and when to ask for specific votes or signatures on letters of support is key to successful lobbying.
- Ask for something specific that the Congressman can do right now as opposed to meeting with them to say something general like “Health care funding is really messed up and I demand you fix it now.”
- Our legislators need and want input from “feet on the ground” in order to keep them from causing inadvertent harm. For example, the intent may be to reign in the drug companies but could inadvertently cause closure of rural dialysis clinics.
- Talking with staffers on Capitol Hill is good. These bright and energetic young people are the eyes and ears of our busy legislators. Their job is to gather and sift input for their bosses.
- The importance of establishing relationships with staffers was stressed repeatedly – the idea that this is not a one shot deal, that a relationship must be built, and that you can become a resource for them when they have questions on future issues.
- Visiting Capitol Hill was fun. I was nervous going in there the first time, but I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. Democracy only works if people show up.
Ruth Grindinger, RN
NIWI Grant Recipient
Big Sky Chapter #527