I was lucky enough to attend the annual OSNA Convention at PCC Sylvania where nursing students from programs all over Oregon came to expand their horizons as future or current nurses. There were breakout sessions led by professionals from many different areas of health care and leadership, from flight nursing to social innovation, and everything in between. I had the opportunity to sit in on a few breakout sessions, one of which delved into healthcare equity, and I was amazed, yet again, at the depth and width there is in the nursing profession.
The women who led the Healthcare Equity session, Nancy Sullivan and Christine Tanner, walked us through the limitations and injustices within our current insurance system. They not only shared statistics, but also stories about the people behind the numbers: stories about families crippled by monthly medical expenses and individuals who still aren’t able to navigate our convoluted system. Sitting there trying to soak in, question, and grapple with everything these women were sharing, I began to feel like I was dropped off in front of Mt. Everest and expected to give it a go – I mean for the sake of humanity. I’m the person that shows up without a rain coat or accidentally wanders off a trail because I am out of breath a quarter mile in. Everest has about zero appeal to me, and actually the idea of climbing it makes me want to pass out. Essentially, the level of brokenness in our healthcare system was so overwhelming it made me want to pass out a little.
The presenters then began to share what they felt was part of the solution, a single payer system that covers everyone from the time we are born to the end of our days through a collective tax premium. They argued that the United States could drastically reduce administrative costs by simplifying the insurance system, the way many developed countries already successfully do.
I am not sharing this with you because it is new, it isn’t; and I am not sharing it because I want to convince all of you that a single payer system is the way to go. I am sharing this because I was reminded by these insightful wise nurses that we can be a part of the change. As I stepped back out of my stress zone and took a look around me I saw comrades who were ready and willing to demand a different way of doing things. I listened and felt inspired by the depth of which the people in this room cared for families they would never even meet. I watched as Nancy and Christine asked us to take one small step, to wear a button to spark conversation about a battle most people don’t even know we are fighting.
And all of this reminded me of the core of nursing – what we strive to be for our patients and for ourselves – advocates and warriors, giving a voice to the voiceless and caring for people before we meet them, not just stopping at caring for a wound or cleaning out a trach, but wanting all parts of our patients lives to be healthy. And that is something I might be able to strap on some boots and figure out how to climb a mountain for, because I also know I can count on my comrades to journey with me as we navigate forward.
Although I am a student of OHSU, this is a personal opinion and does not represent the opinion of OHSU.