The Indiana Academy of Physician Assistants (IAPA) held its first-ever Lobby Day on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. More than 200 PAs and PA students attended the event held on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and at the Indiana Statehouse.
As legislative chair, I worked with IAPA leaders to develop a dynamic Lobby Day using the how-to developed by AAPA’s Constituent Organization Outreach and Advocacy (COOA) staff. Here are a few key rules we followed to assure success.
1. Coordination is key. IAPA leaders started organizing this event six months in advance. We wanted to ensure student participation, and we worked with the three PA programs in Indiana to build the event into each program’s schedule. We also made this accessible for practicing PAs by making the event free for everyone and offering an hour of CME to attendees. Participants were responsible for their own travel accommodations to Indianapolis, and IAPA picked up the tab for breakfast, lunch and transportation to and from the IUPUI campus and the statehouse. IAPA used the Indiana State University PA program’s chartered bus to transport attendees.
2. See one, do one, teach one. Most attendees had no advocacy experience, so we provided training. There were two presentations: COOA staff member Liz Roe did the advocacy training, and I gave specifics on HB 1099. PAs and students received folders with handouts, including a debriefing form for comments. Seasoned PAs served as “advocacy preceptors,” and were available for quick consults throughout the day. We color-coded the folders to make it easy for students to spot practicing PAs.
3. Schedule—but be flexible. Scheduling advocacy training and coordinated activities around lawmakers’ schedules required some creative logistics. The morning education sessions took place on the IUPUI campus, and were divided into two shifts to accommodate space and travel times of PAs and students across the state. All attendees then took the bus to the statehouse.
The morning session was followed by a lunchtime rally in the statehouse, which included speakers from IAPA, AAPA and the sponsor of HB 1099, Rep. Steve Davisson. These enthusiastic speakers, and a bit of food, fired up the group and got them ready for their afternoon meetings with lawmakers. Some PAs participated in scheduled meetings with state representatives and state senators, while other attendees informally met with lawmakers.
Before the beginning of that day’s session of the Indiana House, PAs walked up the stairs to the House of Representatives’ viewing gallery. Speaker of the House Brian Bosma commented on the large presence of PAs in the chambers. It was amazing to stand at the back of the gallery filled with PAs and students in white coats saying the pledge of allegiance to begin the session. We also witnessed HB 1099 being advanced to second reading, which is a procedural act, but exhilarating nonetheless. This moment reinforced for all of us why we were there, and it was exciting to see the legislature in action.
The day ended around 3 p.m., with reports of many positive interactions with lawmakers. The House voted unanimously to pass HB 1099 the next day. The bill is now in the Senate awaiting action.
While participant feedback was positive, we noted some points for future lobby days:
- We need to step up our media opportunities. Next time, we will hire a photographer, notify the public relations officers at the PA programs and send a press release to local media outlets.
- We must hone our “elevator speech” for lawmakers unfamiliar with PA practice.
- We need to refine a few technical elements, such as timing of when we collect debriefing forms and officially close out the event, as well as catering/accommodating dietary needs.
In summary, the day “took a village” but it was a smashing success. As a result of our presence at the statehouse, PAs may be added to other pending legislation. The PA programs have also discussed how students can incorporate advocacy into their curriculum and assure that contact with lawmakers is not a one-day-a-year proposition.
IAPA leaders are already making plans for the next event, which will be a “virtual” lobby day—a targeted day during this legislative session where we will invite every PA and student to contact their lawmakers. Stay tuned for updates.
Courtney Doran, PA-C, is the Indiana Academy of Physician Assistants legislative chair.