The Political Nurse Speaks
Politics is not limited to Presidential campaigns and pie-in-the-sky promises. It is inherent in our jobs as nurses, and it informs our everyday actions on behalf of the patients in our care. And when it does come time to stand up and be counted, our voices must never be assumed to be a chorus singing as one.
I have been a political animal all of my life. From the time my grade school held a vigil for Bobby Kennedy and a mock Presidential election in the same year, I've followed the fortunes and follies of our nation's leaders, stayed abreast of political trends, and even changed from conservative to liberal and back again.
However, as I've grown older I have come to the conclusion that politics isn't just about politicians and pie-in-the-sky campaign promises, but something that affects us in our everyday lives at work. Who hasn't heard of the term "office politics"? Every workplace has its individual set of unwritten ground rules; run afoul of it and you risk being ostracized, even terminated in more extreme cases. It's a dog-eat-dog---or perhaps more accurately, nurse-eat-nurse---world out there, and you've got to be tough (and smart) to survive.
The flip side to this is how politics forms the basis for what we call patient advocacy. Without realizing it, we make political decisions on behalf of those in our care every day when we discuss the merits of "futile care" with the physician and family of a blind, demented 90-year-old man with stage IV decubiti and urosepsis; when we push a recovering surgery patient to walk just a little farther and deep breathe just a couple more times even though she doesn't want to; when we call the doctor to request an order for Ativan not because the patient is driving us crazy, but because he's driving HIMSELF crazy.
And yes, politics also informs our social consciences and in turn, our voting habits. This is where the public at large, and even nursing leaders, tend to get us wrong: by seeing nurses as a monolith. Politicians, especially those of a left-leaning persuasion, look at us and practically salivate, thinking they can count on us to deliver the votes for social programs, stronger unions, and so-called "reproductive rights".
I cannot overstate how wrong-headed this view is, not merely because I personally do not support those causes, but because I'm acquainted with many, many nurses and we all think differently, even when we agree on most things. For example, I have a nurse friend who, like me, is pro-life but also is pro-death penalty, while I (in later life) have concluded that the commandment "thou shalt not kill" doesn't make an exception for the State. I also work with a nurse who is about as far from me on the political spectrum as it's possible to be, but who is adamantly anti-abortion and goes so far as to volunteer both time and money to help new mothers who have no support systems or resources to help them take care of their babies.
It is my hope that as the election of 2012 comes and goes, more political analysts and campaign managers will realize that NO group should be pigeon-holed as a voting bloc, and learn to tailor their messages to reach those who don't conform to their idea of how nurses think. In addition, I would like to see the state and national nursing associations, such as the ANA, open up the "big tent" to include nurses who don't support the proliferation of unions, who vote Republican, and who hold associate's degrees or are LPNs. After all, we are ALL nurses!Last edit by Joe V on Oct 28, '12
About VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN Guide
Joined: Sep '02; Posts: 26,648; Likes: 43,142
RN and blogger extraordinaire; from OR , US
20 year(s) of experience in LTC, assisted living, geriatrics, psychOct 28, '12While individual nurses may be either doves or hawks on foreign policy issues, may have varying opinions on coal, fracking, federal funding for wind power, come down all over the map on the tax code, the debt ceiling and disagree widely on farm subsidies, stem cell research and Honey Boo Boo, the bottom line is, one the whole traditionally nurses have been social justice advocates. The voting membership of the ANA reflects that.
I am not a conservative. Were I, I would no doubt be quite vexed with accusations that neo-cons have abandoned ethics and social justice values with the recent incursion of Teaparty extremists. Except that if I were honest, I'd have to admit it isn't recent. Social justice was loudly decried by most conservatives first in the McCarthy/Goldwater era. The Teaparty nonsense isn't at all new. It's a broken record playing to the same old fears.
And that is precisely why organizations like the ANA, the AANP, etc, have lone presumed to support more progressive platforms. I don't anticipate that will change anytime soon on the macro level.Oct 28, '12Although my political views are slightly left of the center (read: I am not a conservative), ideology does not stop me from admitting that you have written another superb article, VivaLasViejas.Oct 28, '12I just wish one of those bags of wind in Congress would ask a room, big room, full of nurses what they think. And if they, don't anyone shush anyone up. Not so much as one evil eye.Oct 28, '12This is a fantastic article - shared it immediately on FB. I know so many nurses on both sides of the aisle, and the first thing on their mind is the patient in front of them. I'm considered pretty liberal, but I'm also pro-life - I once begged a young woman to go through with her pregnancy (then 20 weeks) rather than travel to the one clinic in the state who would do an abortion before the legal cut-off of 22 weeks. I told her I would help her and adopt her baby, because I couldn't save them all, but maybe I could save this one. Ultimately, she went through with the abortion. I know nurses with conservative stances who support social programs. I know nurses with liberal stances who oppose things most other liberals support. I love the point of your article, that we are all intelligent people capable of independent thought, and we should not be assumed as a base of support for one platform or another.Oct 28, '12I'm pro-choice. I despise people that insist on making personal decisions for other people. The anti-choice crusade just makes me feel like we're getting one step closer to burquas.Oct 28, '12I don't have a strong conviction one way or the other about abortion. I do have a strong conviction about those that think it is fine to use my tax dollars for personal reasons. I feel tax money should be used for the good of the nation. I absolutely hate when people say if they don't have abortions or get free birth control then there will be that many more kids the State will have to pay for. That sounds like extortion to me. "If I don't get what I want then it's going to cost you." We are supposed to pay off some woman so she does not produce a child that someone else will have to pay to raise? I know this is an ancient concept but, how about keep your knees together if you can't afford birth control, or make him provide it?Oct 28, '12I'm republican but suport gay marriage and am pro-choice. The govn has no business deciding on either of those issues. I hope everyone takes a real close look into what obamacare will mean for this country before voting. No matter what you believe, get out and vote.Oct 28, '12Quote from 08RNGradSounds like you might lean more libertarian, no?I'm republican but suport gay marriage and am pro-choice. The govn has no business deciding on either of those issues. I hope everyone takes a real close look into what obamacare will mean for this country before voting. No matter what you believe, get out and vote.Oct 29, '12Quote from audreysmagicI sincerly hope that you "begging" this woman was on you own time and not while wearing the nurses' uniform. Pretty disgraceful. Do you also beg and plead with your other patients making serious life decisions based on your own personal values. i hope you also beg your governor for more services for young broke moms and their children, or any services for that mater, or do you only care about them while their babies?This is a fantastic article - shared it immediately on FB. I know so many nurses on both sides of the aisle, and the first thing on their mind is the patient in front of them. I'm considered pretty liberal, but I'm also pro-life - I once begged a young woman to go through with her pregnancy (then 20 weeks) rather than travel to the one clinic in the state who would do an abortion before the legal cut-off of 22 weeks. I told her I would help her and adopt her baby, because I couldn't save them all, but maybe I could save this one. Ultimately, she went through with the abortion. I know nurses with conservative stances who support social programs. I know nurses with liberal stances who oppose things most other liberals support. I love the point of your article, that we are all intelligent people capable of independent thought, and we should not be assumed as a base of support for one platform or another.Oct 29, '12I always considered myself pro-choice, but it was my OB rotation during clinical that changed my perspective. Not only did I get to see a live birth, but care for the same mother and baby in the following days. The girls in my class (there was only one other male), made fun of me. They said look at you, you were all whining and complaining about this and now you're the first one to volunteer to do everything. They were right, I dreaded this rotation from the very start, but it ended up being a great experience.
I'll never forget what happened that first day. The instructor led me into the birthing suite, and it was on. The mother had just begun labor. I stood idly by in the corner, next to the crib. The nurse eventually said you don't have to stand back there, you can come right up. I kindly informed her that I was good where I was. I can still see the first glimpse of the babies head. It was black, not black like african american, but black like necrotic tissue. My heart sank. Delivery commenced and at first I was relieved that the black I had saw initially, was hair, not necrosis. However, the baby was gray and motionless at first. Within seconds, or fractions there of, the doctor suctioned the baby and he came to life. It was an amazing thing to see a baby take his first breath.
Later as we were cleaning and swaddling this premature baby, the nurse anesthetist looked at me and said "we had a 50/50 chance and we made it." This is why I am now pro-life. There is no way of knowing whether a pregnant woman will have a live birth. Who are we to make that decision in advance?Oct 29, '12so how did this make you anti-choice? you know that abortion isn't "anti-baby" right? lots of people that support a woman's right to abortion understand the majic and beauty of birth and life.
What I don't understand is how some people thinks it is okay to interfere medically with life in so many other ways and times but not with reproductionOct 29, '12This is very well written. I agree that as nurses, we deal with "politics" every day in our life. We just need to be smart and proactive on how to handle it correctly in our workplaces.
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