Hundreds of Nurses Rally on Capitol Hill in National Day of Action
|500 nurses rallied for health care reform Wednesday on Capitol Hill.|
Here’s a great report on nurses rallying for health care reform in Washington, D.C., from Katrina Blomdahl, writer-researcher for RNs Working Together, a coalition of 10 AFL-CIO unions representing more than 200,000 registered nurses nationally.
Spirits and energy ran high today as hundreds of nurses from all over the country gathered to participate in a National RN Day of Action in Washington, D.C., adding their voices to the nationwide demands for comprehensive health care reform.
The day’s activities included an animated morning nurses’ conference, followed by a march to Upper Senate Park that gained power along the way, gathering 500 nurses and another 500 patient advocates.
Speakers at the rally included Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC); Ann Converso, RN, president of the United American Nurses (UAN); Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE); Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.); Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); and M*A*S*H actor Mike Farrell.
After the rally, a large contingent of nurses advanced on Capitol Hill to lobby for a single-payer health care plan and a strong legislative agenda that includes two health care bills introduced today—the National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act, sponsored by Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and the Nurse and Healthcare Worker Protection Act of 2009, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).
The energy in the room shot through the roof when AFL-CIO President John Sweeney pointed to the need for a system that provides health care for all:
President Obama and the Congress want to concentrate on turning around our economy, and we’re all for that. But our elected officials must realize that we will never have an economy that works for everyone until we have health care that is always there for everyone.
Jean Ross, RN, UAN secretary-treasurer, emphasized that nurses are ready and willing to step up the political pressure to get a system that works for everyone.
Politicians say, “I can’t work wonders, you have to make me.” Well, we’re here, and we’re strong, and we’re ready to make you.
While flexing their political muscle on Capitol Hill, nurses also are strategizing to strengthen their outreach. Ross says:
We’ve done a lot of talking today about organizing, as we always do. We care deeply about organizing because the only way we’re going to challenge those big hospital chains is by joining our power together.
With the economy the way it is right now, it is not the time to silence nurses. We have lots of laid-off workers in this country. Many of them should become nurses. We’re trying to keep the profession attractive, so that they want to become nurses.
Martha Kuhl, treasurer of CNA/NNOC, pointed to the size of the gathering as a major sign of optimism:
It’s incredibly exciting! Looking around the room, you can see that every nurse is excited to be lobbying for patients and for ourselves. As a nurse, you don’t want to see a child come in sicker than they should because their family didn’t have health care. We don’t want patients to not get the care they need because insurance companies deny care or because they can’t afford it.
CNA/NNOC board member DeAnn McEwan, RN, says she’s ready for structural change in the way we handle health care.
We’re defenseless against the for-profit health care industry. Insurers provide no value in the delivery of health care services. They are not licensed or competent, yet they are able to overrule expert practitioners at the bedside. We want to make sure everyone has the care they need without respect to their ability to pay.
Wearing buttons reading: “RNs: the REAL Healthcare Policy Experts” and “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History,” McEwan is a committed activist who sees herself as participating in a strong history of social/political activism among nurses.
Yesterday was the 189th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday, and yesterday DeAnn McEwan was arrested at the Senate Finance Committee Meeting along with four other health care activists.
Some 40 other RNs staged a silent protest—standing before the committee in red nursing scrubs and turning their backs to show signs reading “Nurses Say: Patients First. Stop AHIP. Pass Single-Payer.” (AHIP, America’s Health Insurance Plans, is the private insurance industry lobby arm.)
McEwan was reading a quote from Nightingale when police escorted her out of the room. She wanted them to hear Nightingale’s call to action:
Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better.
McEwan says she didn’t plan to be arrested, she just wanted to get the message out.
As patient advocates, we are disappointed with what we have. We can do better. We should do better.
McEwan was charged with “disorderly conduct” and “disruption of Congress.” She finds the second charge ironic.
They accused me of disrupting Congress, but I think that Congress is disrupting our health care system, and that compelled me speak out.
The RN Day of Action was sponsored by CNA/NNOC, UAN, Massachusetts Nurses Association, Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, New York State Nurses Association and the SEIU Nurse Alliance.