School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Taking my Seat at the Congressman’s Table

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On February 16, 2018, two days after the Parkland shootings, the American Academy of Nursing  (AAN) released this call to action:

“American Academy of Nursing Calls for National Commission on Mass Shootings Washington, D.C. (February 16, 2018) –– Today, the American Academy of Nursing urges Congressional leadership to launch a bipartisan National Commission on Mass Shootings within the next thirty days. “The time to act is now. Thoughts and prayers for victims and families are simply not enough. We need the will of Congressional leadership to lead,” said Karen Cox, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, President of the American Academy of Nursing and Executive Vice President/COO, Children’s Mercy Kansas City. “We need common sense gun laws.”

Within six weeks, more than 95 nursing organizations, including NASN and Rutgers-Camden School of Nursing, co-signed a letter that was delivered to Congressional leadership requesting a National Commission on Mass Shootings to convene within thirty days. I called my NJ Congressman, Donald Norcross’s office, two weeks after the letter was hand-delivered to find out where he stood on the AAN letter and what action had been taken. During my phone calls and emails with a Congressional staffer, I shared my family’s story of both my father and my niece surviving mass shootings 70 years apart.

Fast forward a few more weeks, and Congressman Norcross’s District Director called to invite me to participate in a Town Hall that was being planned on Gun Safety. The Congressman also wanted my niece Carly to join the conversation.  Of course, I said yes, even though I was scared, unsure, and just wanted to bury my head in the sand and believe that all of the madness would go away. However, I had made a promise to my niece and my sister that I would do everything I could in the public health arena to promote an agenda of gun violence prevention. Carly’s voice in this conversation was most needed and she readily agreed to join us, even as she continues to work through the aftermath of the tragedy. Within a week of the scheduled Town Hall, two more school shootings erupted, taking 10 more lives and injuring several others.

I am happy to report that the Town Hall was well received. My niece Carly, who Skyped in from her home in Parkland, moved the audience with her raw honesty on the topic of gun control and school safety. Her exact words were, “Lives being lost to gun violence is becoming normal, I want to remind you guys, this is not normal.” The high school auditorium where the Town Hall was held was filled with respectful community members who listened to the speakers and asked thoughtful questions of the panelists. My husband and daughter were there along with wonderful friends and colleagues who came to provide support and gather information. My heart was full, even though the reason we were all there was sobering and steeped in tragedy.

My father, may he rest in peace, would have been so proud to hear his precious granddaughter speak so eloquently with poise and conviction. I did feel his presence during my remarks. We do not know next steps, but I do believe the Town Hall succeeded in providing a public forum to keep the urgent topic of gun safety and violence prevention front and center.

Here is a link to view the Town Hall.  Carly and I start at 10:15:

Town Hall on School Gun Violence Prevention/

Here is the link to the letter from the American Academy of Nursing:

American Academy of Nursing Letter to Congress

This blog is cross-posted on ACEs Connection

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