Nurses in the Voting Booth

We’ve all heard the saying, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” I became curious as to the source of this quotation, and was a little dismayed to find out that its genesis is a bit vague. There are some hints that it came from French Revolution sources, or more comically, it was also attributed to Spiderman. So there you have it, either from those who went a little power mad with the guillotine, or from an unfortunate arachnid bite-recipient, who had adverse reactions from said bite, including the wearing of tights at inappropriate times.

All that aside, it’s a good quote, and it got me to thinking about another aspect of power, and that is respect. From well-earned respect comes a type of power and responsibility as well.

Nurses Command Respect
Do you know what group came out as the most respected for honesty and ethical standards in a recent Gallup poll of occupations? It wasn’t members of Congress (shock!) nor was it telemarketers (no!), but those two groups did tie each other with a whopping 8% level of respect. No, it was the nursing profession that came out with the best numbers. Nursing was rated at 85% for honesty and ethics.

This is the respect earned from the countless hours of care that is lovingly, if not exhaustingly extended out into our communities. It is the legacy of those who came before, and cared for those at their most vulnerable. This is a pure source of respect, earned by those working night shifts, and then trying to go home and care for families. You all know what I’m referring to.voter button

Most individuals who go into nursing have a compelling pull to fix and steward the world. It can be an enormous weight that has to be mitigated with reality sometimes, as far as what is actually possible. But every now and then a clear and weighted response comes back from society, showing tat all of this work does not go unnoticed.

Nurses’ Civic Duties
The reason I refer to this level of respect is that it seems that another apt quote would be “With great respect, comes great responsibility.” One of the ways to exercise this responsibility is community and civic involvement. It’s true that in many ways, no matter what your political leanings, there is some serious weirdness afoot in our political world. It becomes quite easy to want to ignore this sketchy realm, and simply keep to our own circle of perceived responsibility. The thing is, these decisions on the larger level are trickling down to create very real effects for our patients and in turn, for all of us.

I would never presume to tell anyone reading this how to vote, but I will encourage becoming clear on what issues are out there, and what politicians are doing on the macro level. As of January of this year, 19 states had not expanded Medicaid. This is a concrete issue, and one that, depending on your viewpoint, should have distinct ramifications on who you vote for. So the initial imperative for those of us in nursing is to become aware of the issues, solidify our stance, whatever it may be, and become educated on the platforms of the candidates.

On many of these issues, I am speaking to the state and local level. Much attention is given to the fracas of the federal government, and of course it goes without saying that is important, but much of our lives are determined by state level decisions.

And I would go one point further and encourage those in the health care professions to consider running for office. Around 40% of the members of Congress are lawyers (no offense to attorneys.well maybe a little-they rated 21% in that Gallup poll), but don’t we need other members of society to be represented, individuals who know that these decisions have real consequences other than effective sound-bites? Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson wisely asked “Where’s the rest of life represented?” in regard to the issue. Indeed, where is the rest of life? We are out here working in the real world, and our voices are needed.

SEE ALSO: Health Problems in the Public Eye

Unique Knowledge Base
We as nurses have a keen awareness of what is going on in our populations. Our unique knowledge begs deeper involvement from the ground up. Gathering political knowledge, imparting that to those in our immediate sphere (without being totally obnoxious, we don’t want to screw up that 85% rating!), and eventually voting our consciences.

The broader imperative someday might be running for office, but remember, “Every journey begins with a single step.” Or at least that’s what I heard from Spiderman and maybe Robespierre. So begin anyway, even if you don’t know where it will lead. I will give you yet another quote, one that is mysterious and hopeful at the same time: “The future is unwritten.” (Joe Strummer).

Kathleen Wallace is a nurse in the quality department of St. Francis Health in Topeka, Kansas

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