They Can Hear You Now!

Betsy SnookBy Betsy M. Snook, MEd, RN, BSN

Year after year, the daily scene at Third and State Street in Harrisburg repeats with few interruptions. On any day the legislature is in session, lobbyists huddle around the State Capitol Rotunda’s thick marble pillars, staffers fast walk to committee meetings and the legislators themselves, eyes down or ear to the phone, sprint to the House or Senate floor.

In 2014, the cigarettes, spittoons and shoeshine stands of yesteryear are largely gone, but the trademark drub of state government continues. Change comes slow to Harrisburg.  

For citizens, the pace of business can be dizzyingly intimidating and frustrating. For the organization representing nurses and their patients, the environment can feel fully disconnected from real life realities – where each of us lives and works.  

The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association’s (PSNA) commitment to educate lawmakers and hold them accountable is the substance of what we do. With rapid changes coming to healthcare, this mission is increasingly critical. 

GRADING THE LEGISLATURE

On March 31, some 150 uniformed nursing professionals interrupted the State Capitol’s rinse-and-repeat cycle with a headline-grabbing Townhall Meeting in the Rotunda.  Standing before a battery of news cameras, curious lawmakers, and rows of students and nursing veterans in white coats, PSNA transformed the space into a conversation about issues that matter to patients and their families. The visual was powerful, the effect profound.

This year, PSNA awarded two friends of nursing with our coveted “Standing with Nurses Award” – an embroidered white lab coat stitched with the recipient’s name and the official PSNA logo.  Senate Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-25) and Representative Steve Barrar (R-160) accepted the annual honor with praise for PSNA and its membership. The event was a triumph rivaled by few professional organizations in Pennsylvania. 

While this year’s legislative grades didn’t fall below a “B,” the message was clear – there’s plenty of room to improve.  From passing an essential Safe Staffing law to securing our profession’s voice in the coming state and national changes to healthcare, PSNA has been the nurse’s champion.  There’s no stronger voice in Harrisburg. 

In large part due to the strength of our membership numbers and the accessibility of our full-time, on-duty government relations team, our combined voice is being heard – firmly, loudly and consistently.  Because of PSNA, the nursing profession has become a sought after, top-tier, advocacy organization in the State Capitol.

VOLUNTARY MEMBERSHIP?  YES, THAT’S A PSNA DIFFERENCE

There’s one, major difference in the way PSNA does business on behalf of nursing professionals, patients and their families.  It’s a significant distinction.  

PSNA is a made up of men and women who chose to join our ranks.  Membership in PSNA is completely voluntary.  No required membership as a condition of employment, no dues used to fund political causes or candidates, and no automatic deduction of renewal dues.  PSNA members make the decision when they want to join or leave.  It’s that simple. 

And unlike organizations whose primary focus is on electing or defeating political candidates, a PSNA membership connects nurses and nursing students to a wide menu of enriching professional development tools, ongoing educational opportunities and dozens of new ways to connect with peers.  

Our advocacy is tough and strategic but never political.  It’s an important value of PSNA. 

Fifty years from now, lobbyists will still huddle, staffers will still run at the beck and call of their bosses, and politicians will still move through the Capitol with some form of technological distraction. After helping to lead over a century of meaningful change, it’s a safe bet that PSNA will still be on site to break the routine, interrupting on behalf of people who matter. 

Be part of our work.  Join us at www.TheyCanHearUsNow.org  to begin your path to membership. 

Receive 10% of ANA/PSNA membership Nurses Week through June. E-mail membership@psna.org for details.

Betsy M. Snook isCEO of the  Pennsylvania State Nurses Association.