State Societies Drive the Message During Virtual Lobby Week

 Updated: May 18, 2017

  Tags: AARC MembersAdvocacyLobby Week

Virtual Lobby Week
Kentucky Rep. James Comer (center) visited with Tom Cahill (left) and Tina Siddon during Capitol Hill Advocacy Day.

AARC PACT members had a great day on Capitol Hill on April 4, bringing the RT message to their members of Congress. But none of it would have been possible without the RTs back home who took the time to email, write, or call their Congressional offices in support of the AARC agenda. And we have our state societies to thank for driving the response.

The Kentucky Society for Respiratory Care (KSRC) is a shining example. This year the KSRC came in at number six in the overall tally of messages sent by the states, increasing the number of messages it sent by a whopping 212% over last year.

How they did it

“We set a specific goal and monitored it during the event,” says KSRC President Lisa Houle, MS, RRT. “I actually raised the goal throughout the event because of how well we were doing. Our initial goal was a 10% increase in letters/emails to our Congressional representatives and senators.”

They did it by working closely with the AARC Executive Office to send out a series of emails throughout Virtual Lobby Week asking for support from Kentucky members. Social media figured heavily into the strategy as well, with at least one post about Lobby Week made on Facebook and/or Twitter every day during the event.

A little friendly competition between the KSRC districts helped too.

“We decided on a campaign to raise a spirit of competition among the six districts and asked everyone that sent a letter in the state to #KSRCTakesDC and #districtname,” says Houle. “Our West Central District sent the most letters.”

Time and effort pays off

KSRC Secretary Kelly Hayes, BS, RRT, challenged her fellow educators to have students use a hashtag with their school name when they posted about the event as well, and she initiated a friendly competition of her own between the first and second year students in her program at Madisonville Community College to see which class could post the most.

On a personal level, Houle contacted friends, family, and coworkers and asked them to send messages to their members of Congress. “Our goal as therapists needs to be to educate our peers on the value of having dedicated respiratory therapists on the team of dedicated health care professionals,” she says.  “We need to be proud of what we do and communicate it effectively.”

All that time and effort paid off when it came to time for KSRC PACT members to head up Capitol Hill on April 4, and in at least one case, the messages sent during Virtual Lobby Week made the difference between getting an appointment with a legislator and being turned away.

“When we had trouble getting an appointment we reached out to KSRC board members from the district to send in extra emails and requests for meetings,” says KSRC PACT member Tina Siddon, BS, RRT. “After the emails and requests we were quickly scheduled for a meeting.”

Fellow PACT member Tom Cahill, MS, RRT-NPS, FAARC, agrees. “It was the district members working together to help get the appointments.”

Take-aways for next year

The 212% increase in messages seen at the KSRC this year makes it clear Kentucky is doing something right. Lisa Houle has these six tips for other state societies that would like to up their game during next year’s Virtual Lobby Week as well –

  1. Start planning early and have a formalized plan.
  2. Set a goal and communicate it.
  3. Select the right individual(s) to lead your Government Affairs or PACT Committee.
  4. Get students involved.
  5. Use social media and AARC State Membership Email to your advantage.
  6. Make it fun!