One great way to educate elected officials is to invite them to your practice. Hosting a legislator is not only a useful way of informing office holders about the issues that are important to you and the patients you serve. It can also help you build a relationship with that legislator, which can be helpful down the road when you want to express an opinion about health care legislation that is being considered.
Here is a step-by-step guide that you can use if you want to host a state legislator at your practice:
- Check with your clinic administrator and supervising physician to be sure they approve. Discuss ideal dates and times.
- Do some background research on the legislator. You can usually find biographies on state legislature Web sites. If you are having trouble getting information on your legislator, contact David Ashner on the AAPA staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you find that your legislator has a particular interest that is relevant to your clinic (i.e. care for the elderly, women’s health, care for recent immigrant populations), be sure to emphasize that during the visit.
- Contact the legislator or a member of his or her staff either by letter or phone. If this is after an election, congratulate them on their success and invite them to see “health care in action” at your clinic. Your message should be that you know health care is an important issue to them, and you’d like to give them the opportunity to see where health care is provided in their district and to discuss some of the challenges facing health care providers and their patients. Make sure that they know that you are a physician assistant and that they are aware of any PA-related bills that will be debated in the coming legislative session.
- Confirm a date and time for their visit. Thirty minutes to an hour should be sufficient.
- Prepare materials to give to the legislator. AAPA has fact sheets and issue briefs on a wide variety of topics, and Academy staff can help you pick the right materials for your situation. These materials are also available at AAPA’s Web site. Giving the materials to the legislator in a file folder with “Physician Assistants” printed on the tab will make it easy for the legislator to put the information in the right place once he or she is back at the office. Be sure to include your contact information or business card.
- Spiff up the office and alert the staff. Consider making a “Welcome Representative/Senator _____” banner or poster for the office.
- Invite the media, if it’s okay with the office administrator and your supervising physician. Also, be sure that inviting the media is acceptable to the legislator. If everyone agrees, contact David Ashner (email@example.com) on the AAPA staff for information on making the visit a media event.
- Make a detailed schedule for the visit. Here’s a sample agenda:
9:00 – Legislator arrives, PA host greets the legislator, introduces staff and physicians, and introduces the legislator to patients in the waiting room.
9:10 – Tour of office and description of population served, special interests and roles of clinic staff. Be sure to mention any areas of particular interest to the legislator (i.e. “Dr. Jones is board certified in geriatric medicine,” or “Mrs. Miller is both our receptionist and our translator”).
9:20 – Legislator, PA, and physician convene in conference room or office to discuss health issues in district. Coffee is served. Legislator is invited to share his or her health agenda for upcoming session and discuss other issues of particular interest. The PA’s role in the clinic is described by the physician-PA team. Physician discusses the importance of PA legislation (if applicable) to the legislator’s constituents (remember that the message must be about why the PA legislation is important to the legislator). Clinic group asks how they might help the legislator with health issues the legislator has identified. Someone takes notes for follow-up.
9:30 – Media (if invited) arrives. Clinic staff and legislator pose for photos. Legislator is given opportunity to discuss health issues and the importance of the visit. If the media is not invited, have a staff person available to take pictures.
9:45 – Legislator is thanked by everyone for taking time from his or her busy schedule to visit. Additional photos of legislator at clinic and with staff are taken.
- Host the visit.
- The same day – Contact your chapter’s Legislative Coordinator to review the visit.
- The next day – Check the media for any mention of the event.
- Two days later – Send a personal note thanking the legislator for the visit and include copies of photos.
- The following week – Begin follow up on any items mentioned by the legislator.
So, there you have it: it’s as easy as one, two, thirteen. Remember, personal experience is the most significant motivator for legislators. Hosting a legislator at your practice takes less than an hour, but the experience of meeting a PA will stay with them for years beyond.