I’m sure you’re familiar with the classic Schoolhouse Rock! segment entitled “I’m Just a Bill.” If you’re not, here is a quick breakdown: a bill sitting in front of the Capitol Building describes in a beautiful, catchy song to a boy the process in which he can become a law. The bill tells the boy he was once an idea created by regular everyday folks who decided there should be a law. The active citizens called their local Congressman and pressed the need for that law. The Congressman agreed and drafted the bill that then goes in front of the House of Representatives for debate. If the House approves, then the bill can go to the Senate for further debate and voting. If the bill is passed by both groups of Congress, it goes to the President for approval, who signs the bill to become a law.
Before I attended National Day at Your State Capitol Day (NDAYSCD) in the summer of 2016 as a rising second year Audiology student at UNC, I thought my experience at the state Capitol in Raleigh would be just like “I’m Just a Bill.” I imagined a room filled with motivated and well-informed congressmen surrounded by a chorus of singing bills (very naïve, I know). As you probably already guessed, I was wrong. Firstly, there were no singing bills explaining how they could become a law, and secondly, the congressmen did not necessarily know everything about audiology.
At NDAYSCD, Dr. Philip Griffin and I were able to meet with Representative Grier Martin of the N.C. House of Representatives. Like most people we encounter, Representative Martin did not know too much about audiology or what audiologists do. He was welcoming and inquisitive, wanting to know about audiology and the services provided. We stressed the importance of our current four-year doctoral degree with continuing educational requirements and the significance of our services to members of the community, as well as concerns regarding unqualified persons performing these services. Representative Martin explained that he works for the people he represents and wants to understand how he can serve his “bosses” to the best of his ability.
One last thing that stood out to me was the prevalence of other professional healthcare groups. Our NDAYSCD in 2016 coincided with a state capitol visit day of a group of physician assistants who were dressed in professional attire with posters. They were even recognized at the N.C. House of Representatives General Assembly where they ensured that all congressmen were familiar with their profession and how they serve the community.
Attending NDAYSCD was eye-opening and motivating. There were no singing bills standing on the steps, and most congressional representatives knew about as much about Audiology as someone who would be sitting on those steps. Our patients we see every day need us, but so do our representatives. Our representatives need us to give them insight so that they can make bills and pass laws that serve their constituents best. We need to make our presence known just as other medical professionals do.
My challenge to my fellow Audiology students is to attend this year’s National Day at Your State Capitol Day on May 23rd. Meet your congressional representatives, and if they do not know about audiology and what audiologists do to serve the community (which they probably won’t), tell them we are educated, qualified, and offer valuable services. You will have a great experience in Raleigh, and who knows, the representative you meet might know your high school science teacher.