by, Cheryl Larry-Osman, RN, MS, CNM
As a nurse with more than 20 years of obstetrical experience, I’ve had countless opportunities to advocate for patients one-on-one in a clinical setting. Ensuring that women and infants receive the best care possible is my passion.
In an effort to expand my advocacy efforts to a larger scale, I applied for and was selected to win a scholarship offered by AWHONN to attend in the Nurse in Washington Internship (NIWI). I was thrilled when I heard the news! NIWI is a three day conference in Washington, DC that prepares nurses to influence health care through the legislative process. The conference includes meetings with Members of Congress and their staff in which nurses share solutions for preventing maternal deaths, human trafficking, injuries to nurses on the job, and more. The scholarship covered my travel to DC and all of the costs associated with attending NIWI.
Almost 80 nurses from multiple practice areas and all parts of the country attended NIWI. It began with a 1 ½ day conference packed with presentations to prepare nurses as advocates, to understand the legislative process , and have a voice at the table. Participants were then grouped by state to meet with legislators, and charged with having a UNITED NURSING VOICE.
On the last day of NIWI, my Michigan colleagues and I spent hours on Capitol Hill visiting legislators and their staff. We used our conference learnings and crafted succinctly powerful talking-points touching on “The Heart” (a personal story), “The Head” (concrete reasons for support), and “The Health” (impact on society/individuals). As the day progressed, we had meetings with Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, Congressman Tim Walberg, meetings with five Legislative Health Aids (two were from Congressman John Conyers office), and we watched a portion of a legislative hearing.
After a day of walking to and from the Senate and House of Representative offices, our FEET were on FIRE, but we were so excited! Nurses are a trusted, powerful force. Legislators and their staff, who make decisions that impact every part of our jobs, rarely have clinical expertise. They need US to tell them what’s happening “on the ground” so they can make the best decisions possible.
During our journey, we also met interesting people/groups on missions to meet legislators to ask for support/funding. Initially, I thought asking millions of dollars to continue funding Nursing Education ($244 million) and Research ($150 million) was an astronomical amount, however I quickly learned that it was not. We met one person who casually mentioned that he was on Capitol Hill to request ONE BILLION DOLLARS in funding! After I picked up my eyes off the floor, I remembered the resounding message from the NIWI presenters which stated, “If you’re not sitting at the dinner table, then you are on the MENU”. There’s a finite number of dollars for legislators to disperse, so nurses must use USE OUR VOICE TO ADVOCATE for funding/support, or risk being left without the resources we need to do our job.
My passion for advocacy grew tremendously during the Nurse In Washington Internship. I will continue to confidently speak to legislators and others when advocating for nursing, women’s health, newborns, and beyond. I will also remember to always wear flat shoes in DC :).
- Visit AWHONN’s Legsiative Action Center for more advocacy resources that YOU can use.
- Visit AWHONN’s website to see how AWHONN is advocating on your behalf.
Cheryl Larry-Osman, RN, MS, CNM
Cheryl Larry-Osman is a Perinatal Clinical Nurse Specialist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. She has 20 years of experience in obstetrics focusing in the clinical areas of Labor and Delivery, Postpartum, High Risk Antepartum, Normal Newborn, and Women’s Health. Cheryl is an advocate for the safe delivery of care for moms and babies & has participated in legislative action at the local, state, and national level.