For better or for worse, we live in a reactionary world.  By that I mean that, these days, more and more decisions aren’t made until we reach a “crisis point.”  This is doubly true when it comes to our legislative bodies – Congress especially, but state houses too. We’ve lived through the fiscal cliff crisis, the great debt limit standoff, sequestration and the government shutdown…the list goes on and on.

Yet while it might seem counterintuitive, when it comes to civic campaigns and policy development/passage, crises can actually be quite helpful.  Consider two examples from here in Pittsburgh.  One was when two of our beloved professional sports teams were ready to pick up and leave town, forcing our decision-makers to take substantive action on new venues and injecting some life into incredible new neighborhoods.  The second came when some local foundations pulled funding from our public schools in order to get their attention.  The message was finally received loud and clear, and only then could the necessary corrective actions take place.

The two crises mentioned above didn’t “just happen” – in civic campaigns creating a sense of urgency and crisis can be very helpful in moving decision-makers your way.  Let me give you a more recent example.

Note: This was a former client taking action when a true crisis was in fact brewing – we just helped move the crisis front and center.

Across the nation, we are facing a health access crisis.  Despite more people getting insured, getting to a primary care physician is actually harder than ever.  Between the shortage of primary care doctors, the aging baby boomer population, and all those new people seeking primary care, the crisis is very real.

Nurse practitioners – advanced degree nurses with extensive clinical experience – have been working to get full practice authority across the country for years.  This would allow NPs, who already provide a substantial portion of our primary care currently, to do so with having to find two doctors to “oversee” them.  This costly, ineffective mandate is helping feed the shortage crisis.

So how do you go about convincing lawmakers that full practice authority for NPs is the way to go?  It’s tempting to want to use the argument that NPs provide great care and are highly educated and trained.  Moreover, you could highlight the fact that NPs provide outstanding chronic care management, and their involvement in primary care helps drive down health care costs.  All of these points are true and bear out in hundreds of research documents.  But, on their own, they won’t move decision-makers into action.

The real message is the crisis of patients – family members, babies, neighbors – not getting to see a primary care provider when they need or want one.  The impending health access crisis brings this fact into stark focus, and the fact that millions of new patients simply won’t be able to see a doctor means helps make nurse practitioners the obvious choice to fill that gap.

So, in essence, in this case the crisis was already there – it just needed to be brought to the forefront and presented as the primary, secondary, and final argument in order to move decision-makers.