School Nurse Advocacy Day Builds New Relationships in Springfield

May 12, 2009

SN-capitol

By Amanda Chablani, HSC policy intern

On April 16, Healthy Schools Campaign and the Illinois Association of School Nurses brought approximately 30 nurses together in Springfield to raise their voices for school health.

Given that it was only my fourth day as a policy intern with HSC, I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to happen or how much use I would be!  Luckily, the school nurses knew exactly what they wanted from the experience and were comfortable and confident discussing the issues at hand.  In one day, I learned a great deal about the process of advocating for an important cause and about the current issues facing school nurses in Illinois.

The morning began with several of the school nurses advising the Illinois State Board of Education on the importance of a state-level school nurse consultant. A consultant would ensure supportive health services are provided schools across the state and advise the board on school health issues.

After the meeting, we all moved quickly to the Capitol building to meet with Caroline Brown Hodge, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor.  Here, the nurses spoke at length about the school nurse consultant position and the state budget (and whither the two will meet!). 

During lunch at Illinois Education Association headquarters, Mark Bishop offered a good deal of helpful advice on targeting particular audiences in Springfield, identifying the best audience for a particular issue, and how different actors affect state policy decisions. I learned that committee staffers write summaries and recommendations on bills for legislators who may not be able to read through all the thousands of bills they see each session.  Therefore, offering advice and expertise to staffers when a bill is first proposed can allow for a great deal of input.  Essentially, it is sometimes as effective to build a relationship with a staffer as with a representative!

Thus, it was logical that in the afternoon, we met with the staffers on the Education and Health and Human Services Committee to talk about HJR046.  Generally, the staffers were extremely engaged and interested, took good lots of notes and promised to follow-up with questions. Many of the nurses commented on how much more effective this felt compared to trying to connect with their representatives.  Just to cover all our bases, we still made sure to visit our representatives' offices to drop off letters, business cards, and fact sheets [pdf]. 

The day was a great success, the weather was beautiful, and everybody had fun!  I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the world of advocacy and can’t wait for another jaunt to Springfield.