Midwife Monday: Nurses in Politics

This was yesterday’s post…but right before publishing my computer died – #reallife. Anyways, I hope this Tuesday finds you well and in good spirits. The sunshine finally melted all the snow in our yard and we have been blissfully playing outside with big grins on our faces all weekend long.

I found I also needed a little break from the pandemic. And from school. And two articles plopped right into my lap that provided a fun little rabbit hole to avoid both! Let’s dive in.

If you didn’t know, it’s the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife! Many spotlights are turning towards nurses and midwives in their every day work – but for some nurses and midwives, their every day work is in politics! This is why I love nursing so much – there is an amazing breadth of flexibility and expertise within the profession. The two articles both spoke about midwives and nursing in politics and I thought it was absolutely worth discussing and sharing here!

Also, and totally unrelated, I found a letter from the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Princess Kate) addressed to midwives. It is very heartfelt. Read here if you’re interested! Even more unrelated, I used to tell my husband that I wanted to move to England to be her midwife. Let’s not kid…if she has a 4th baby, the offer still stands.

Nurses in Congress

For starters, did you know we have two nurses in the House of Representatives right now? The Honorable Lauren Underwood (14th District of Illinois) and the Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson (30th Congressional District of Texas) (Lowe, 2020).

Representative Johnson has a history of firsts behind her name – first nurse elected to the Texas State House and first nurse to lead a Texas State House Committee! And before public service, she was chief of psychiatric nursing at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Dallas (one could argue this is a career in itself!) (Lowe, 2020). Amazing.

Representative Underwood received her baccalaureate degree in nursing but then went on the pursue a dual masters degree in nursing and public health. She credits a nursing politics course as the impetus for her interest in politics. And, at age 33, she is the youngest African American to serve in the House (Lowe, 2020). It’s really something that a nursing policy course launched someone into politics!

Women in Congress

I wasn’t quite sure how many women were in Congress…turns out, the women still have their work cut out for them.

The 116th Congress has the most women in history: 25 out 100 seats in the Senate (25%) and 102 of 435 seats in the House of Representatives (23.4%) (Van Hoover, 2019). But women still remain the minority.

Women should run for political office for a variety of reasons according to Van Hoover (2019):

  • “When women hold local offices, women in their communities are more likely to hold a favorable perception of government and participate in political activities” (p.380).
  • Women who see other women run for office and win express greater belief in their own potential for offering significant contributions to political decision making and policy” (p.380).
  • “The presence of a female candidate on the ballot increases the likelihood that women’s issues will be discussed during the campaign and included in policy agendas” (p.380).
  • Lastly, “…female legislators have been shown to outperform their male counterparts in the number of bills sponsored and cosponsored and in the amount of money channeled to their home district” (p.380). Does this mean women are better multitaskers?

I love all these reasons. And, when I personally think back on women I have watched or seen in office, I think many of these statements ring true for me. I think women are so knowledgable about so many facets of life and there are some topics that only women can truly speak the importance or hardships of – for example, a mama that has either had or has not had paid maternity leave. Or a mama that had day care provided on site at her place of work. These small details are actually tiny ripples that grow into enormous waves in how our society functions!

Midwives in Legislative Positions

Van Hoover (2019) provides a number of reasons why midwives should run for government positions:

  • Midwives bring a specific set of skills to the political table because they are naturally strong listeners and data collectors, and they can both assess and anticipate problems accurately
  • Midwives can quickly assess urgency of issues and are experts in consultation and collboration
  • Public policy created by midwives will naturally include vulnerable populations and help reduce disparities (Van Hoover, 2019)

I have to agree with all of that! Most midwives I know are calm and slow to cause an uproar – I think it’s the nature of being calm in the “storm of labor.” Also, labor is really unpredictable. I have found it takes a specific type of personality to be content with sitting and watching instead of intervening!

Lastly, Van Hoover (2019) published a list in her article some recommended educational activities for policy for midwifery students. I had a few policy assignments in school but found these all to be wonderful ideas:

  • Contact an elected official (I think I had to write a letter to a Senator about midwifery in graduate school)
  • Visit the office of an elected official
  • Assist in the work of activist programs
  • Volunteer with a political campaign
  • Testify before a committee
  • Engage with an ACNM affiliate or another professional group
  • Attend or assist in a political demonstration
  • Host an advocacy party for family or friends

I knew a midwife in Colorado that used to send a postcard to the state Senators every time she birthed a baby. The postcard said the same thing every time: “You have a new constituent!”

There’s a lot of truth and weight to that 3×5 card.

I hope you guys enjoyed a little political rabbit hole. I think you would be surprised who has nursing in their background when you start to ask around.

Have you ever thought about running for office? What agenda items are you passionate about? Did you have access to maternity benefits that helped ease your transition into motherhood? Or, did you experience the opposite?

Let me know! Happy Tuesday 🙂

Jamie


References

Lowe, N. (2020). Nurses in the United States House of Representatives during the year of the nurse and the midwife. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 49(2), 125-126.

Van Hoover, C. (2019). Women and midwives in politics. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 64(4), 380-384. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12979

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