Because the majority of nurses are newcomers to political and policy activism, every nurse should possess the mentality of being both a mentor and a protégé in the political process. Learning politics is not a solitary activity. This means that nurses should be on the lookout for mentors who can serve as their teachers and guides as they hone political and policy skills. Likewise, every nurse should assume responsibility for actively mentoring others as they refine their repertoire of skills and deepen their involvement. This reciprocal collective mentoring is extremely effective in expanding the political and power base of the profession and its members. Collective mentoring can occur in schools, clinical agencies, and professional associations. This means that wherever we practice, we can each refine our skills by seeking mentors and serving as mentors to others.
Inherent in this form of mentoring is the development of networks of persons who are active in policy and who take responsibility for expanding these networks. The nurses in these networks should develop strategies for mentoring political neophytes and for “claiming” nurses who may not be in traditional career paths (Gebbie et al., 2000). Organizational networks, including those in academic, clinical, and association settings, are a natural place to establish developmental mentoring activities. For example, politically active faculty members can network with political leaders in professional associations to provide undergraduate and graduate students with lobbying and leadership opportunities. Many state nursing associations are successfully reaching out to collectively mentor hundreds of nursing students through lobby days in national and state capitols. Nursing students and practicing nurses also have many opportunities to experience collective mentoring in learning the political ropes through relationships with leaders and peers in organizations such as the National Student Nurses Association, ANA, specialty and state nursing associations, and volunteer health-related organizations. In addition, local political parties, community organizations, and the offices of elected officials offer nurses opportunities to learn through mentored experiences. These organizations can offer numerous mentoring opportunities for involvement in lobbying, policy development, media contacts, fund-raising, and the political process in various venues.
Mentoring in policy development in any of the spheres also requires connections to knowledgeable leaders. In the workplace, one can learn from health professionals who serve as leaders on influential committees. For example, if you want to work on improving staffing systems, you would need to learn about the cost of staffing, the cost of bringing in temporary staff, and the budget allocation for staffing on the unit. A clinical unit manager should have that information and can help guide your learning. In addition, one would need to know how much Medicare and Medicaid allocates to particular types of patients (outside the control of the institution) and the acuity level of patients. By working with experienced and knowledgeable staff, one can learn how to put this information together, how to influence colleagues to support a proposed policy, and how to gain access to and support from organizational leaders.