Guest Post: Seth Wyatt, High School Junior and Hospice Advocate

At the 2015 Advocacy Intensive, I had the pleasure of spending some extended time with one of our youngest hospice advocates, Seth Wyatt. Seth accompanied his father, Arkansas Hospice Physician Neal Wyatt, from their home in Arkansas to Washington DC. When I first heard he would be joining us, I was amused and pleased that a high school junior would be interested in joining our cause. When I met Seth in person, I realized I wasn’t dealing with a typical high school junior.

As you will see from his post, Seth is a passionate and stunningly aware student of political science and philosophy. He maintains his own blog where he discusses all manner of current events, and his knowledge of the congressional process was very helpful to the Arkansas delegation at the Intensive. Did I mention that the second day of the Intensive, July 14, was Seth’s 17th Birthday? Impressed by his dedication, I invited him to share a few thoughts with us about his experience:

A few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to journey to Washington DC with my Dad. It was no normal vacation or venture. It was a trip for the purpose of lobbying on behalf of Hospices and Hospice patients all over the United States. Organized by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and its advocacy arm, the Hospice Action Network, I and hundreds of other Hospice-affiliated citizens from around the country gathered in DC to advocate for Hospice inside the United States Congress.

The Care Planning Act and a Sign-On letter in the Senate, and the Hospice Care Access Improvement Act in the House were the subjects of our advocacy. We dispersed amongst the great halls of our legislatures and spoke with staff members and legislators alike.

Prior to our day on the Hill and our day in training, my Dad and I experienced another adventure entirely when we spent almost 3 days traversing the Capitol Mall. In one afternoon, we walked over twenty-five thousand steps and covered a distance close to 40 miles of walking over the course of the week. Needless to say, we got our workout for the week. We visited as many monuments as we could: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Air and Space Museum, the National Archives, the White House, and the Jefferson Memorial. One night we even got tickets to go to the very top of the Washington Monument. The experience was incredible. To see DC from that view was truly breathtaking. The most impactful of the monuments and memorials was, in our opinion, the least discussed of them all – the Jefferson Memorial. A statue of Jefferson stands gazing out towards the Washington Monument, surrounded by pillars and texts of his own writing. It draws the question, how can corruption exist with monuments such as this within walking distance?

During our day advocating on the Hill, my group met with Senator John Boozman and his staff, Congressman Bruce Westerman and his staff, Congressman Rick Crawford and his staff, and the offices of Congressman French Hill, Congressman Steve Womack, and Senator Tom Cotton. The experience of getting to meet and talk with these Members of Congress and their staff humanized Washington for me in a way it never had been before. The men and women who operate our government are nothing more or less than that, men and women. The advocates from the Hospice Action Network were kinder and more gracious than I could have ever imagined. Some who came from our state with us even bought me some surprise birthday presents! (The day we spent advocating on the Hill was my 17th birthday.)

My trip to Washington was one of the most inspiring and impactful trips of my life. I am absolutely honored to have been able to take part in such an amazing adventure, and such a noble cause.

We were honored to have Dr. Wyatt and Seth join us for the 2015 Advocacy Intensive, and we hope to be seeing them both again! See more of Seth’s writing at his blog, and feel free to leave him any comments below!

 

Socks
Seth also had on appropriate socks for working the Hill

Video Testimonial: Raymond Gonzales

While at the Advocacy Intensive, I had the opportunity to interview Raymond Gonzales, RN and MSW student about his experience at the event.

Ray mentioned empowering his patients, clients, and their families as advocates. How do you use the knowledge you have an as advocate to educate and empower your clients, patients and families?

Thanks for joining us at the Intensive, Ray! We hope to see you again next year!

 

Eminem, Hospice Advocate?

Well not exactly. Wednesday night on the #HPM tweet-chat, the group was discussing a new video from ZDoggMD, physician turned comedian/medical commentator. The video, a parody (though it is not funny in nature) is set to the tune of popular song “Love the Way you Lie,” by rapper Eminem, featuring Rihanna. I had seen the video circulating on social media, but I took a break from the chat to watch it myself. I was stunned.

Watch the video, and then scroll down for my thoughts.

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I’ll wait.

 

 

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Now tell me that didn’t hit you in the feels? I think this could be an incredible tool for getting people, especially young people, to think about Advanced Care Planning and end-of-life conversations. Yes it is a little edgy, but maybe we need to try something like that to reach more people. Curious to hear what you all think about this video: Do you like it? Does it work? How would you use it? Should the #HPM community try to use different methods to spread awareness? Let us know!

“Once it starts to rain, it’s too late to build the Ark”

This phrase was oft repeated at the Public Affairs Council’s Digital Media and Advocacy Summit, held last Wednesday in Washington, DC. I was honored to represent HAN at the event, and hopefully some of you saw my real-time tweets during the conference. I did a little live-blogging as well (here and here), but today I wanted to reflect on this quote: Once it starts to rain, it is too late to build the Ark.

We have all seen the political ads that seem to appear out of thin air when there are controversial bills or policies being debated in DC. Radio, TV, email blasts, fundraising; where did all these advocates come from? Did they just wake up, flip on the news, and decide that day to get involved? Not really. Successful advocacy campaigns are built in the off-season. Gaining recognition, educating supporters, building relationships with legislators, finding community allies: these are all activities that may not appear to have a direct link to legislation before Congress, but pay dividends when something happens.

Part of the reason you want to have your army ready is that things can happen quickly. Hill staffers and Members of Congress handle several issues and a plethora of different meetings in a single day. They do not have weeks to focus on one issue alone.  A staffer may have twenty minutes to listen to a constituent talk about your issue before they make a recommendation to the Member. You want that constituent to be one of your well-educated, prepared advocates who is already a trusted voice and known entity in that Member’s office. And that takes work in the off-season.

So when is the “off-season”? Anytime you are not asking your Member of Congress to do something for you. Much like other relationships, legislators don’t like to be called upon only when you need something from them. You should start the relationship by introducing the Member to your program, your role in the community, and creating yourself as resource for them to use when they need information. Be available and knowledgeable, and support your Member at their community events. That way, when it starts to rain and you need to call your Member of Congress to take action on your behalf, you have already built the Ark.