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Should nurses get political at work?

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Pretty much everyone who’s old enough to vote or hold down a job knows that you shouldn’t talk politics at work. But what if we only applied this rule to instantly polarizing subjects such as party affiliations or presidential elections? That leaves a lot of gray area for intelligent and impassioned discussion and perhaps some real political action. Here’s our best advice for four types of politically vociferous nurses. You may have to do some soul-searching to figure out where you draw the line.

Cause-y Causerson
Do you speak out when lives or livelihoods are at stake? What about legislation that directly impacts the healthcare industry and your own job? How about laws that are intended to protect consumers in general? What about local issues that really matter to you and where a little community activism has a chance of making an actual difference?

Our best advice: It’s always worthwhile to speak up and be true to yourself when you are faced with a law that you feel is harmful. But how you actually spend your energy on promulgating political activism is a different matter. If you want to make an impact, it’s a wise decision to pick one thing at a time to really focus on. Otherwise, your coworkers may think you just like to vent. Unless you’re a real pro, it’s best to pick a topic that’s simple to explain. For example, when the school district of Philadelphia decided to slash the ranks of school nurses by more than 36 percent last year, it was easy to point out why this was a bad idea in a couple of paragraphs.

Soapbox Sally
How do you communicate about an important political issue? Do you use social media to send out FB or email blasts? Do you chat face-to-face over coffee in the break room or while you are going about your work? Do you march up and down the halls proclaiming your viewpoint?

Our best advice: Your personal approach to getting political at work will probably depend on whether you are a “people person” and what the rules are in your workplace. This can be a fine line to walk. You certainly don’t want to come across as pushy. All it takes is one person feeling pressured when you shove a clipboard in her face and HR may call you on the carpet. To be safe, start a respectful conversation with something like: “Hey, I was reading about the potential cuts to Title VII and VIII funding in the paper today. It got me wondering how that might affect our ability to access grants for continuing education as nurses. What do you think about it?” This is a good way to test the waters before you start reeling in supporters for your own viewpoint.

The Pen Stealer
Is it okay to ask people to sign a petition at work? How about encouraging other nurses to write their representatives in the House or Senate? Do you invite coworkers to participate in a town hall discussion, picket a location or engage in other types of grassroots activism?

Our best advice: First, if you haven’t done it yourself, don’t ask someone else to do it. Second, you know how busy nurses can be. Make it easy for them to participate. Set up an online petition for them to sign if you can. If you want them to come out to a physical event locally, offer to bring refreshments and make it as much fun as possible. Remember to go to bat for these nurses about stuff that matters at work if you want them to back you in supporting a political cause outside of work.

The Naysayer
Do you disagree with the stance that the major nursing associations in the United States take on an issue? Are you vocal about this or do you fear being blackballed for dissenting?

Our best advice: There are some issues that are really easy for all nurses to love. For example, everyone where you work probably supports recognizing National Nurses Week. But other bills are more controversial, such as the Healthcare Truth and Transparency Act that the American Nurses Association opposes. That’s not even going down into the quagmire about current legislation pertaining to assault weapons (which the ANA has also expressed an opinion about). You probably don’t want to trigger an argument about Second Amendment rights on the job.

How do you handle politics at work? Do you steer clear or dive right in? Let us know in the comments section what issues matter to you most.

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