Activism & Advocacy for Nurses

Jan 12, 2021
The Trusted Team

Nurses are perfectly positioned to impact change in a meaningful way to those who need it most. Healthcare is at the intersection of health equity and social justice, and we must act accordingly. 

Last time we spoke with Nicole Vance and Ashley Wood from the Capitol City Black Nurses Association, we discussed allyship in nursing. This time, we joined them for an open discussion on activism and advocacy in nursing. The goal of the conversation was to leave it empowered to begin or continue our own journeys of activism and advocacy. 

The Role of the Nurse

“The profession of nursing, collectively through its professional organization, must articulate nursing values, maintain the integrity of the profession, and integrate principles of social justice into nursing and health policy.” - ANA Code of Ethics, Provision 9 (2015)

In other words… “all policy is health policy.”

Early Roots of Nurse Activism: Lavinia Dock

Lavinia Dock (1858-1956) was a nurse advocate to the nth degree; she protested in front of the White House for the right to vote, and was later jailed for attempting to vote following her protests. She believed that nurses are a “class of citizens” most apt to advocate for others.

She certainly serves as a role model for nurse advocacy, and despite her efforts, the need for advocacy continues.

Continuing Disparities

Disparities, or “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury or opportunity to reach your best health, experienced by socially disadvantaged populations,” are rampant today, even in modern society.

In fact, maternal health disparities affecting African American women have only increased since 2007, and differences in pain management according to race (even in pediatrics) continue to persist.

What Does It Look Like to Be "Community-Minded" as a Nurse Today?

If you’re not sure where to look to find the resources to get started, or continue, advocating for your community, here are some thinking (and action) points:

Who’s already doing the work you’re passionate about?

What kind of help are they asking for? 

  • What can you offer? Time, money, relationships and networks, and/or specialty training (as nurses, we certainly have this last one covered).

Nursing organizations:

  • National Black Nurses Association, NBNA 
  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses, NAHN 
  • Philippine Nurses Association of America, PNAA
  • Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association
  • National Association of Indian Nurses of America
  • National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association
  • GLMA
  • California Nurses Association
  • And many more!

Who are YOUR elected officials?

Journal and reflect.

Share within your network.

How Do You Build Trust When Working With Community Organizations?

Building trust in a new community or organization takes time and effort. In order to show that you’re invested, you must:

  • Be consistent and authentic
  • Show up (physically and emotionally)
  • Put in the time
  • And understand that impact is greater than intentions alone 
“Service is the rent we pay for living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.” - Marian Wright Edelman (founder, Children’s Defense Fund)

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