For more than twenty years I have worked as a nurse serving communities across the country, from inner city New York to rural Hawaii. Once I finally settled in Oregon, I specialized in primary, palliative and hospice care serving homebound elderly community members. My experiences informed by interest in the healthcare debate and the political events of 2016 fortified my conviction to serve. When my own representative led the charge to take healthcare away from the most vulnerable Oregonians, including my patients, I knew the time had come for me to do more.
My decades of nursing have been incredibly rewarding. I’ve learned a lot about what’s important to people by listening to their dreams and fears, sharing their faith, and giving them hope, but I’ve also seen a darker side. Through my work in our communities, I witness my patients worry about seeking care because of high medical costs. I see them in their kitchens rationing their medication and I watch families rely on food banks to keep from going hungry. I’m tired of elected officials denying there is a place for government to address these issues.
The importance of support services is something I learned firsthand. When I was young, my father was diagnosed with cancer. To survive, he depended on Medicaid and my family depended on social services to make ends meet. I recall my mother’s embarrassment when she used food stamps and even at that early age, thinking it was sad that my mom felt shame. It’s a terrible thing when people in power, people who claim to represent us, lack the perspective and experience to understand that all of us need help at some time in our lives. That is the basis of a civil society.
I have also seen for myself what can happen when an abusive partner has access to a gun. I was lucky to have escaped alive and determined to give voice to those that need to escape to hopefully prevent another woman from a traumatic, potentially deadly experience. This year, I testified alongside other gun violence survivors in an effort to keep victims of domestic abuse safer by passing stronger laws.
Ask any nurse and they will probably tell you that when we look at someone we see only a person and a patient that needs help. All of us have been or will be patients at some point in our lives.
So I say I’m am running for my patients: past, present and future.
I am running because I believe healthcare is a human right and all families should have access to the care they need when they need it.
I am running to fight for the one in three American women who, as research tells us, will be impacted by domestic violence.
I am running because I want to fight for sensible gun policies.
I am running because I’m tired of people in power ignoring their constituents in favor of special Interests.
I am running because the people of my district deserve a representative they can depend on.
They deserve a representative who will bring expertise, compassion and unstoppable determination. Nurses are in our community clinics and at the bedside in our hospitals, but we also belong in government. We belong everywhere we can advocate for our communities. We are the most trusted profession in this country and I believe it’s time we have that same level of trust in our elected representatives.
Rachel Prusak is an Emerge Oregon Alumna and Candidate for Oregon House District 37.