By Laura Sayles
MNA Government Affairs Specialist
Seems like it’s a tradition that around Thanksgiving everyone writes about what they are thankful for. To mix holiday metaphors, the Grinch in me can’t find much to be thankful for right now. Regardless of who you voted for, there is no doubt that this election season was brutal: to people’s mailboxes and televisions, to relationships with family and friends, to a culture of civil dialogue, to candidates who lost, to candidates who won and now have to govern highly polarized electorates.
And in all honestly, I’ve mostly succumbed to the pessimism all this brings. I don’t want to deal with real life. Looking at pictures of kittens and puppies on-line, watching super hero movies where there’s no doubt about what is good and what is evil, not interacting with people I know I’m just going to end up arguing with about politics. Food that’s full of fat and salt so I don’t have to feel deprived of anything (while I love kale, it does have a certain aura of healthy around it that I’m just not ready for right now), these are the things that keep me from dealing with the real world.
But as I wrote to a friend the day after the election, I don’t have anything pithy or inspiring to say today. I don’t have anything angry or depressing to say either. But the sun is out, and I’m brewing a strong cup of coffee. Then I’m going to put my shoes on, put one foot in front of other and see where it leads me. So I do have to admit that I have some things to put one foot in front of the other for: a beautiful outdoor wedding on a crisp, November afternoon; a colleague’s kiddo who had to attend a meeting with her and proceeded to keep us laughing by drawing portraits of us on the white board in the meeting room; those who are still willing to step up and continue talking to all Minnesotans about their vision for what Minnesota can be; and, quite frankly, Captain America movies.
And what about nurses in my blog post on a website for nurses? One of MNA’s origin stories is that 100 years ago, nurses were able to increase the fee for getting licensed in Minnesota. They used the money to hire a lobbyist and were able to pass the Nurse Practice Act, which outlines in statute a nurse’s duties, rights, and responsibilities if they want to practice in Minnesota. For me, the act of demanding to have their rights and responsibilities outlined in law, or even the act of becoming licensed, means that nurses have always contested societal structures that tell nurses that they are less than. Nurses were saying we’re not just wives, mothers, sisters, or daughters who do this because it’s inherent in our nature to care for people; we deserve the recognition that we are trained, we have independent judgement about the care of patients, and we have standards we have to meet before we can practice nursing.
What that means in practice today is that I get to lobby on behalf of nurses on a whole host of issues, not just those related to nursing practice or the right to collectively bargain. MNA also lobbies on for people who need access to affordable, accessible, effective health care; people who more comprehensive mental health services; and people who need to able to take a sick day and not lose their job. While the path forward after the election will be full of difficult conversations about where we agree or disagree on certain issues, the fact that nurses not only advocate for themselves and their practice, but also advocate for the health and safety of others, is what keeps me putting one foot in front of the other. And for that I am thankful.