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Posted By: Carol A. Barch, MN, FNP-BC
March 17, 2020
As clinicians, we often talk about being a patient advocate, which is something that most of us probably do daily. We may be advocating for authorization of medications, getting a patient's appointment moved up, or seeking community resources to support patients and their families. This behavior is second nature to all of us.
This past February, I took a trip to Washington DC to advocate for patients on a larger scale. I was a bit nervous not knowing what to expect, but excited about the opportunity. The event, "Headache on the Hill," was sponsored by the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy, an organization that has been making the annual trip for 13 years. During the event, health care professionals and people with migraine gather to meet with their Congressmen/women and their Senators to talk about migraine and its impact on society. This is a leading health issue with significant impact on society, as there are currently 40 million people in the US living with migraine. Furthermore, the World Health Organization has designated migraine as the second leading cause of disability.
This year, the "ask" was regarding two bills, H.R.3414 and S.2892, which both request funding for increased residency training and positions directed specifically to physicians in pain management. Due to the significant shortage of providers and the high impact of migraine, this is an important goal. The specific "ask" was to amend the language of these bills to direct funding to pain management and headache medicine fellowships to ensure that the money earmarked would reach its intended target.
We received training the day before our official office visit to gain a clear understanding of the bills, the process they had undergone to get to this point, and what needed to be done moving forward. We had been introduced to the concepts of advocacy on the Hill and the work behind the scenes that went into the entire process. We were ready, and our message was clear.
The next day, 174 of us climbed onto buses that took us to the Capitol. We all dispersed in our small groups to tackle meetings with Senators, Congressmen/women, and their staffs. Walking around Washington always gives me a sense of awe and pride—even more so now that I wasn't just a visitor, but someone who could create change. When we met with the Senators and Congressmen/women, I sensed their desire to listen and work towards appropriate solutions. While sharing information from our perspectives—from the personal stories of people living with migraine to the impact this bill had on our day-to-day delivery of care—each meeting gave me a sense of empowerment to be part of such an amazing process. When the day was done, we were all a bit tired but filled with the satisfaction of a day well spent. The bills will be up for final review in early May 2020.
Knowing now that this process is not so overwhelming, and is actually quite rewarding, I won’t hesitate to participate again. I am hoping you, too, will consider joining an advocacy group. Use your voice and expertise to advocate for the change that will move our practices forward and ultimately improve the lives of the patients we care for.
- Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy. Headache on the Hill. allianceforheadacheadvocacy.org/headache-on-the-hill/. Accessed March 17, 2020.