Angela Archer, BSN
“What can I do, I am just a nurse?!” This is a question I have often asked myself over the years as a staff floor nurse. I hadn’t really given that particular question in my mind much credence until the past few years. Finding my voice and helping others find and use their voice has been a series of small steps, which I hope to inspire not only the persons around me in my place of work, but as a profession as a whole.“What can I do, I am just a nurse?!” This is a question I have often asked myself over the years as a staff floor nurse. I hadn’t really given that particular question in my mind much credence until the past few years. Finding my voice and helping others find and use their voice has been a series of small steps, which I hope to inspire not only the persons around me in my place of work, but as a profession as a whole.As nurses, we have a voice, and we use our voice every day at the bedside. We are all advocates, whether we know it or not. The term advocate is Latin for advocare, which means to “call to one’s aid”. Do we not do this every day? We advocate for our patients, however, we stop there, and fail to realize we can be, and do so much more beyond the bedside as advocates for ourselves and others. Yes, I understand most of us have families, have other obligations and commitments outside of work, I have been there. My priority was my family. Why is using and finding our voice so important to our profession, to ourselves and to each other? Because this is important to our future as professionals, as leaders, and as human beings helping other human beings. We are called to advocate every day, and we have a duty to fulfill that obligation. Whether on a small or larger scale, we can use our voice to make a change. Back to my original question, “What can I do, I am just a nurse?”. Glad you asked, here are some of my suggestions I have learned and used along my road to “Finding My Voice”:1. Vote! This is one of the simplest and overlooked actions we can do as citizens and as nurses. If you don’t vote, you are not using your voice, and yes, our votes as nursing professionals can make a difference, as there are over 74,000 licensed nurses in the state of Oklahoma. Pick up a voter registration application next time you renew your car tags at your local tag agency. You can also download an application from https://www.ok.gov/elections/Voter_Info/Register_to_Vote/2. Write. Yes, I know, this can take a little more time, but a simple letter can potentially make a big difference. Write to your local state legislators. They listen, especially in this political environment of change we have been experiencing in Oklahoma. To find your legislator in your district, go to www.oklegislature.gov From there, you will be prompted to type your address, and your district legislators will appear. You then will be able to click on their pictures, and their contact information will be displayed. I will pass on knowledge that my own district house representative passed on to me. She told me, she has changed her mind on voting on a particular bill, after a constituent presented her with research that supported a stance that she was originally was against. She also stated, most of our legislators are businessmen/women, and do not know everything. Legislators need our input and need us as nursing professionals to help make decisions on bills that could potentially affect us as health care professionals and our patients.3. Join. There are many differing nursing specialty organizations that are local, state or national. As a member of INS (Infusion Nurse Society), I attend meetings every other month, learn about various topics that not only benefits me, but my patients. I have also been past president of our state INS, and from this experience, I have grown as a leader as well. (Baby steps, lead to the next level). Join your place of work’s leadership committees. This is where I started. Unit based council, practice council. You can use your voice to be heard, to use your voice on behalf of others. The potentials are endless. Again, you will be using your time, but the time will be well spent, and everyone will benefit. These are some suggestions to start you on your way to “Finding Your Voice”, to not only advocate for yourselves, but others who may not have their “voice”. So you see, back to my original question I posed to myself many years ago, yes, I am nurse, and yes, I and you can do many things.