ANA President Encourages Nurses To Get Into Politics and Advocacy
If you’ve ever thought that your role on the frontlines as a healthcare hero is well, a rather lonely one, the American Nurses Association (ANA) is here to support you. Founded in 1896 ANA is one of the largest organizations of Registered Nurses in the country, with over 4 million RN members representing all 50 states and U.S. territories.
And in a recent episode of Nurse News, Nurse Alice sat down with ANA’s President, Ernest Grant, Ph.D., RN, FAAN to discuss his own journey into the nursing field and how the organization can support nurses on the frontlines in very real ways. You know, other than a hero hashtag and the occasional free donut. (Although, let’s be clear: we’re always on team #freedonuts.)
Fun fact: Nurse Alice herself has been a proud longtime member of the American Nurses Association (ANA) in many capacities, from serving on committees to speaking to being on the California ANA Board of Members. Here’s more on the organization that Nurse Alice is proud to be a part of and the man leading the way.
Journey to Nursing
Dr. Grant explained to Nurse Alice that he started his journey into healthcare with dreams of becoming an anesthesiologist. Growing up poor and as the youngest child of 7, he took the advice of his high school guidance counselor to get his nursing degree first and work his way through medical school.
“I was about 6 months into my first nursing program and totally forgot all about med school,” Dr. Grant said with a laugh. “I realized nursing was my calling. Here I am, 40-some years later and I still think it’s the best job I’ve ever had.” And of course, Dr. Grant did later go on to still achieve that “doctor” title, adding his Ph.D. to his credentials, although we suspect he’s most proud to this day to wear the badge of “RN” first and foremost.
How the ANA Propels Health Forward
So what exactly is the ANA? The ANA is dedicated to causes that extend beyond just immediate health crises like the coronavirus pandemic; they also strive to bring awareness and solutions to solve widespread public health problems, such as racial inequalities in healthcare. The ANA also works directly with Congress and regulatory agencies; for instance, ANA was able to mobilize its members to send over 350,000 messages to Congress about the dire lack of PPE for nurses at the beginning of the pandemic. Their efforts resulted in the COVID-19 response fund and wellness and educational resources for nurses everywhere. And as Dr. Grant explained to Nurse Alice, the ANA has already begun working with the incoming Biden-Harris administration and will continue to work with them on pandemic efforts and the issues that matter to nurses.
Leading by Example
Nurse Alice and Dr. Grant also discussed some of the challenges with the COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among many different populations, including people of color and healthcare workers. While acknowledging the very real historical offenses to the Black community that could contribute to vaccine hesitancy, Dr. Grant also shared that as a Black man himself, he himself had volunteered to participate in the Moderna vaccine trial. He did so in order to provide data for the study as a Black person, as well as be a role model––something which he believes is important for all nurses to do in their own communities.
He pointed out that truthfully acknowledging the hard history of vaccines, especially in people of color, it’s also an opportunity to discuss how those historical offenses now help guide the rigorous framework for vaccine safety and ethics through the trial process. Acknowledging what was wrong about the past, Dr. Grant noted, helps us move forward now.
How Nurses Can Get Involved in Policy Change
While the ANA’s widespread efforts are necessary and noble, as an individual nurse just trying to get through your next shift, you may be wondering how exactly you can fit in. Dr. Grant explained that there is a myriad of ways that individual RNs can get involved through the ANA to make a difference and also find the vital support they need. For example, they can:
- Get involved in policy-making at a local and state level
- Run for office at the local, state, or national level
- Join a nursing board
- Join a professional organization
- Join a minority nursing organization
- Advocate, connect, or volunteer through the ANA
Dr. Grant strongly urged nurses to consider joining a professional organization, explaining that without nurses lending their voices to the organizations that are making policies, it’s non-nurses who will be making decisions that affect real-life nurses. “A profession should be ruled and dedicated by the members who make up that profession, not someone else us telling us what we can and can’t do,” he noted. “It’s extremely important that you recognize the value of having your voice heard and joining your professional nursing association.”
He also pointed to the ongoing struggles with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout as an example of just how vital nurses are, because without their ongoing input, it can be difficult to get that vaccine where it needs to go in an efficient manner. Nurses know how to get the job done and that’s why he hopes they share their experiences, whether that’s in a public way, like advocating for national policy, or in a more personal one, like being a face of diversity to show a 9-year-old who has never seen a healthcare leader look like him. The bottom line?
“Nurses need to be at the table,” Dr. Grant said.
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