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Apr 13

Political action: It’s a matter of trust

So…how many of you watched the English language Federal leaders debate on April 12? If you did, were you inspired by the different visions health and health care offered by our political leaders? I, for one, was disappointed. Any discussion of health, or health care was left until the very end of the debate—and the discussion lacked energy, and most certainly lacked vision. We heard every discussion one can imagine about the economy, and yet pollsters tell us that health care and the economy are the two leading issues on the minds of Canadians!?

Disappointing? Yes. Paralyzing? Absolutely not! There are more than 250,000 registered nurses in Canada (CIHI 2006 data). So, at the very least, there are ‘lots of votes’ in that pool—but that is far too simple an assessment of the leverage we bring to the table. You and I know that nurses consistently poll at the top of the list in terms of public trust, and that the public believes they receive the most trustworthy information about health care from nursing organizations. Suzanne Gordon provocatively calls this the “trust trap”,  because it’s tempting for us to take that trust home, feel good about ourselves, and leave it at that.

That trust translates into an enormous sphere of influence. When nurses talk, people listen. When nurses act, people notice. The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) has built a user-friendly  web resource for registered nurses interested in taking political action. On this site, you can quickly bring yourself up to speed on the issues, scan the party platforms to see where they stand on these key issues, and find tools to support individual or collective action. I can already feel some of you shying away from the keyboard—many nurses I talk to feel that political action is scary, or difficult. It need not be either!  It’s simple: get informed, and talk. Talk to each other, talk to health care colleagues, talk to family and friends, ask questions, and find out what your nursing organizations are up to. Yes, the public trusts us—but it is a squandered trust unless we use it to take action to improve health and health care.

So, are nurses you know talking about the election? Do you know who your MP is? Do you know who the candidates are in your riding? You are in the majority if all 3 answers are “no”. I challenge each of you to change at least one of these answers to a “yes”, and leave us a comment about that. Let’s talk!

Image courtesy of  http://skmecca.com

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