Member Highlight: Marie Lindsey discusses political advocacy and the weight of a nurse's vote
Marie Lindsey, Ph.D., APRN, CNP, was a nurse's aide right after high school, with no intention of becoming a nurse. Instead, she studied to become a high school teacher, not realizing that she would become unemployed in the early 1970s. Lindsey decided her second career would be something she already knew something about, so pursued nursing.
Having previously received a bachelor's degree from Ohio University, Lindsey obtained an associate degree in nursing at Morton College. A few years later, she was accepted to Rush University, where she was obtained a master's degree as a family nurse practitioner. Lindsey had worked for several years as a nurse practitioner when a colleague suggested they pursue a Ph.D. together. Recalling the interaction, Lindsey laughs and says, "She approached me and said, 'Let's get our Ph.D. together. It'll be fun.'" Despite the hard work that lay ahead, Lindsey was confident she wanted to teach nursing someday and chose to complete her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As she had hoped, her education led to a faculty position at UIC and later at the University of St. Francis in Joliet.
The Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing is born
Advanced practice registered nurses have faced numerous issues concerning licensure, scope of practice, and reimbursement throughout the years. Lindsey recalls, "It wasn't until 1998 that the nursing community successfully advocated for a change to the Nurse Practice Act that clearly recognized the existence of advanced practice registered nurses and allowed us to openly treat patients and prescribe medications. Prior to that, for all intents and purposes, we were invisible to the public and even to most of the staff of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation."
In no way diminishing the wonderful work that all nurses do, Lindsey explains, "We came to realize that APRNs wanted an organization focused exclusively upon their issues. We were grateful to the pioneers and those who helped us change the Nurse Practice Act in 1998. But we felt to reach full practice authority, having an organization with that goal as the main focus would be beneficial."
In 2001, Lindsey and nine additional APRNs met with the consulting staff of Consulting4Biz to form a Steering Committee. "A year later, we had our first annual meeting, ratified our bylaws, and the organization was born." At the meeting's end, leadership positions were also chosen, including Lindsey's election as the first President of ISAPN.
After years of intense advocating and lobbying, APRNs in Illinois have achieved full practice authority at last, meaning that there is now a pathway to practice without a written collaborative agreement with a physician. The law was passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by the governor in 2017. However, most people don't realize that revised practice acts don't really go into effect until the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation write the administrative rules. Lindsey explains that it took two full years for the rules to be written, so it wasn't until 2019 that APRNs were able to apply for a full practice authority license.
Organizations are here to help
Lindsey asserts that every APRN should belong to a minimum of two organizations: A national organization that focuses on federal legislation and a state organization that focuses on state legislation. "And fundamental to that, an APRN should understand the difference between federal legislation and state legislation, and which organizations can help them with which laws."
Proud of what ISAPN has achieved over the years, Lindsey says, "In Illinois, ISAPN is the organization that speaks and addresses all four types of APRNs. There is something to be said for an organization that can go up to a legislator and say, 'We represent all APRNs in Illinois. We have our finger on the pulse of what all four specialties have to offer the people of Illinois.' That's very powerful, and that's why we really push ISAPN membership. We feel it is an advantage to all APRNs, and that was our intent when we created the organization."
"APRNs have more formal education than most citizens. It behooves us to behave accordingly and to do our homework when choosing the people who will lead our state and our country."
Lindsey can't stress enough how important it is for APRNs to be politically aware, informed, and engaged. "It is our civic duty to vote. We are blessed to live in a country where you can vote for the people who enact laws on national and state levels. Too many APRNs don't realize how our profession is shaped by laws; laws that will allow us to practice to the fullest scope of our education and experience or laws that prevent us from doing what we do best. "
Lindsey went on to explain that "The job of legislators is to take care of their constituents just as our job is to take care of patients. No political party knows more about advanced practice registered nursing than the other, so just as we have to educate patients about their health, we have to educate legislators how APRNs help their constituents live healthy lives. And the greater number of healthy people there are in a society, the stronger its health care system will be. No one understands what we do better than ourselves, so if we want legislators to write laws that allow us to work to our fullest scope, it is up to us to educate them about what we do."
"Legislators are generally well-meaning people. It's not their fault if they don't necessarily know what APRNs do. We are more well-known than we were 20 years ago, but the average legislator still doesn't really understand the nature of our practice. And it is our job to make them understand, because no one can explain our role better than we can. We have to repeatedly explain that we don't just provide safe care; we provide quality, cost-effective, and accessible care that empowers patients to be as healthy as possible.
ISAPN Can Help
At the Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing, we've got our members' backs. Check out how. Additionally, whether you are an ISAPRN member or not, if you are a nurse, feel free to reach out and let us know how we can help here.