Advocacy & Activism, Gun Violence, Gun Violence Prevention, Nursing Activism, School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Yes, Nurses Need to be Political!

Rep. Lauren Underwood, Karen Cox, Phd, RN, FAAN


Congresswoman Lauren Underwood spoke about the need for nurses to be political during her keynote speech at the American Academy of Nursing’s annual conference. I often wonder why nurses and nursing organizations have shied away, even refused to speak publicly about nursing being a political act. Perhaps, there is a crack in the armor that has been falsely protecting our profession now that Representative Underwood raised the issue at the most public of nursing forums, the Academy.

Nursing is political, even radical because we have a license to touch people. That is about as radical as you can get. Even more reason for nurses to embrace the political nature of our profession and leverage the power in the scope of our practice to speak out about issues that impact health. Did we need “permission” to be political? If so, perhaps Representative Underwood’s message did just that!

What does it mean to be political in nursing? Perhaps we need to redefine the term “political” that so many have distanced themselves from and create one that we can embrace as a profession. So, this is my attempt to restart this discussion, recognizing that we have visited this issue many times before this blog post. I am not discovering anything new and I recognize that fact. What may be “new” is Lauren Underwood, a nurse and Congresswoman opening the door for political action in the nursing profession.

When we view the term political through a nursing lens, the possibility to influence policies that impact health becomes clearer. Four million nurses influencing policy sounds like a powerful lobby for the greater good. Maybe it is simply viewing being political as a vehicle for policy change? Embracing the emancipatory nature of nursing practice with each new generation is vital.  Nursing is inherently about social justice, advocating for the most vulnerable is second nature. That is political, in its purest form. 

Thanks to the power of Twitter and the presence of #NurseTwitter, Representative Underwood’s message of nurses being political is being shared across a wide social media platform. As my #TwitterFriend Jerry Soucy says:

Nursing is:

Political action

Intelligent care

Public service  

We have a social, ethical and professional obligation to care for the health of our nation. Nurses have a unique vantage point.  We are multifocal, simultaneously assessing through a magnifying glass and a wide angle lens. Speaking from the lens of a nurse activist, I invite my 4 million colleagues to try on the “cap” that nursing is political and see where it leads. 

Gun Violence Press Conference 9/26/19

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