Why Nurses Should Run for Public Office

Nurses are known for their compassion, empathy, and understanding. They take the time to listen to patients and their concerns to make sure they have everything they need to live long, healthy lives. They regularly fight for their communities in more ways than one, standing up for public health, housing, education, and the needs of their neighbors.

The coronavirus pandemic has put a new spotlight on public health policy. When disaster strikes, public officials are the ones making decisions that affect the community at large. They often work in tandem with healthcare providers to limit the spread of novel viruses, heal and care for the local community, and repair the damage from natural disasters.

With just a few nurses serving as elected officials, we believe more providers should step up to the plate and run for public office, so they can better serve their communities. They have the experience and personal skills to get things done, while focusing on the needs of others. Learn how to get your name on the ballot, so you can stand up for the issues that matter most.

Why Healthcare Providers?

Nurses regularly rank as the most trusted professionals in the country. According to a recent Gallup poll, 84% of respondents rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as high or very high. They are more trusted and well-liked than doctors, which ranked second at 67% and pharmacists third at 66%.

RNs also tend to be the face of healthcare. They participate in so many aspects of the care delivery process, including getting to know patients, recording and collecting health information, billing and insurance, the cost of care, and workplace efficiency.

Many nurses have administrative experience, which perfectly sets them up for a career in government. They can manage a team without losing sight of the goals in question. They also have spent countless hours talking to patients and their families, so they know how to talk and listen to people, instead of running the state or city like a business.

While a nurse has yet to get elected to the Senate or serve as a state governor or President of the U.S., there are currently eight nurses serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Many are also serving at the state or local level.

In 2018, we saw a wave of first-time candidates on the ballot, including many women, people of color, and a range of healthcare providers. Many of these candidates ran and won on a platform that called for more funding for public health. With a career in medicine, they had the experience to back this agenda. That year, 17 nurses and doctors were elected to Congress.

How to Get Started

There are several ways to get started in a career in politics.

  1.     Find Out if You’re a Good Fit for the Community

This is what’s known as testing the waters. Find an open position in your community and see how people respond to the idea of you running for office. Reach out to local organizations, individuals, and employers to learn more about the issues that matter most and what’s missing from government.

This gives you a chance to craft a unique, effective message that speaks directly to your constituents. Get to know the issues and create a coherent platform that appeals to voters.

You shouldn’t declare your candidacy just yet. Make sure you have support from the community before making an official announcement.

  1.     File the Required Paperwork

Depending on where you live and what you’re running for, you will need to fill out paperwork to become an official candidate. This may include simply filling out a form, or you may have to collect a certain number of signatures to qualify.

You will also have to disclose any funds you may have already raised to the Federal Election Commission. Use the FEC website to learn more about registering as a candidate.

  1.     Raising Money

Once your candidacy is official, it’s time to start raising money and votes. It’s usually best to connect directly with the voters in your area. You can collect their emails or contact information to hold regular rallies and fundraisers. This will help you stay in touch with them during the campaign. You can also ask outside organizations and donors for money, but small donations will help you better align yourself with the community.

You don’t always need a lot of money to win an election. It’s just about getting your message out. Use email newsletters, social media, and other public settings to connect with voters. You can attend local events, partner with local businesses, and distribute posters and fliers. Be creative with the money you raise to make sure you’re making an impact.

  1.     Staffing Up

Once you’ve announced your candidacy and the campaign is in full swing, it’s time to start putting your team together. You will likely need a team of employees or volunteers to help spread your message. You can try going door-to-door to connect directly with voters. Managing your website, social media profiles, and other digital platforms can be a full-time job, so make sure you have the staff to go all the way to the finish line.

We recently heard from a nurse in Tulsa, Oklahoma who plans on running for office. The Black Lives Matter protests and the coronavirus pandemic have inspired her to do more for her community. She wrote, “Like my city, I’m rich with experience and diversity that will bring a fresh outlook to the position. My hope is to spark dialogue that ignites change. I hope that I encourage and pave the way for other healthcare workers to answer the call of civil servitude.”

If you are running against an opponent, find a way to differentiate your stance on issues. Highlight your experience as a healthcare provider and how it makes you different from the competition. In today’s heated political climate, it’s usually best to be authentic. Speak from the heart and the voters will listen. Before you know it, you’ll be toasting your team on election night as you celebrate your victory. You have what it takes to go into politics. Start planning your run for office today.

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