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Does holistic health care include policymaking?

Bailey Lammering is a 2008 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she earned degrees in International Studies, Spanish, and Latin American, Carribean and Iberian Studies. One of her interests is the role of women in politics and public affairs. She wrote this guest post based on an interview with a nurse named Michele Anderson.

At a glance, Michele Anderson embodies your stereotypical nurse. She is kind and soft-spoken with a nurturing disposition. Yet she has moved well beyond her responsibility to provide safe treatment and recovery to patients in a health care environment.

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“I grew up around the idea that you live within your community and you have to participate or else you can’t talk about why it is not okay,” says Anderson (pictured at right).

At the Listening House in St. Paul, for example, Anderson uses her nursing roots to provide care and counsel to homeless and disadvantaged persons. Yet she does not feel as though this community-oriented work is beyond her call of duty. “I don’t see my volunteering at the Listening House as me doing good for these people,” she states. “I don’t have that ‘me helping them’ type of a thought process. I am just hanging out with them. They are my community…and at any moment we are simply having an exchange.”

While she has been community oriented and politically disposed since childhood, work in a diabetic clinic in rural Guatemala left her feeling as though a career in nursing would not make a big enough impact. “Not until I got to Guatemala did I realize that policy translates,” said Anderson. Policy made in the United States, she explained, “actually made its way to the facial expressions of rural Mayan workers in Guatemala.” So Anderson redirected her nursing practicum at Augsburg College to focus on the effect nurses can make on a political level.

A logical next step brought her to the Minnesota Legislature. Working with state Representative Maria Ruud, a nurse practitioner, Anderson discovered that “nurses are still nurses, even when they are legislators.” Like Representative Ruud, Anderson’s background has given her an opportunity to have relationships with people on a more intimate level, giving her a unique perspective on policy.

Now, Anderson is actively working to construct policy that surrounds health care as an intern with state Senator John Marty. She is learning valuable lessons about how legislation is created, and her nurse’s frame of reference is a valuable asset as Senator Marty pushes for affordable health care with his MN Health Plan. If passed, the bill will directly affect Anderson, other health care professionals, and the community.

Despite her obvious ability to excel in a political environment, Anderson struggles between a future invested entirely in policy and one that works more closely with people in the community. “I am still finding that as a nurse, whatever level it represents, people are wanting to know, ‘What are you doing here?’ or ‘Why aren’t you in the hospital doing whatever you do?’”

Anderson has proven that there is a place for nurses outside the hospital. Combining her profession with her community is just what citizen nurse Michele Anderson does.

Comments

I agree with your assertion that there is a place for nurses outside of the hospital. I think that serving the community is one of the primary concerns of nurses. Thanks for the thoughtful, insightful information!

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs