Debra Savage, DNP, RN, MSN, BSN, has a nursing background that truly runs the gamut. Savage began her career as a staff nurse before spending some time in travel nursing and home health. Moving back into the hospital environment, she worked as a Maternal Clinical Coordinator for several different facilities. Eventually, Savage was named the Nursing Director of an OB Unit. However, the hospital chose to close the OB Unit just after her start, and her position was changed to that of an ER Director instead.
Savage was then named the Chief Nursing Officer for Sacred Heart Hospital before becoming a clinical application specialist for an international company, where she trained others in the integration of their cell phones to call lights and cardiac monitors. “It was really interesting to travel and deal with things like marketing and training. And I was teaching part-time during all of this. Eventually, I decided I had enough of traveling and accepted a full-time position as the Associate Dean of Academic Operations at Chamberlain University.” Savage later transferred into Chamberlain’s online division, where she currently holds the position of Assistant Dean of Faculty for the RN to BSN program and teaches Evidence-Based Practice.
Looking at the big picture
Savage hopes others recognize that there is more to Election Day than casting your vote for President. “Everybody is always excited about federal positions up for election, but what really affects your day-to-day are the state and local elections, so you have to look at the entire ballot. It’s going to require research because you don’t necessarily hear about local candidates unless you go looking. When you’re considering the people on that ballot, think, ‘What’s important to most people?’ They want to be safe. They want access to food and good health care. If they’re a nurse, they’d like safe staffing in their hospitals and adequate PPE. Then, looking at the big picture of what’s important to nurses, think about, ‘What’s going on in your health facility, in your community, and how can these people help?’ As nurses, we need to look at that big picture because I don’t think any candidates are solely about health care. If we ever have a nurse president, which I hope to be the case one day, maybe that would change.”
Savage continues, “And we need to look at judges as well. When judges appear on a ballot, people often think, ‘I don’t know anything about them. How am I supposed to find out, and what can they do for me?’ But as we see, judges turn into Supreme Court justices that can affect the Affordable Care Act, and they have ways to change things in health systems and nursing. You have to do your research on what these candidates stand for, what they have said, and what decisions they have made. Do your due diligence and be sure you’re making the best decision. I teach evidence-based practice and gathering your evidence is essential to solidify whom you want to vote for and why.”
Associations are here to help
Savage has been on several committees with American Nurses Associaton and the Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders in the past. In addition to Savage’s work as a Will County Regional Office of Education Trustee, Governor Pritzker appointed her Chair of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board in December of 2019. According to the HFSRB Official Website, “The board, through its certificate of need program aimed at containing health care costs, approves or disapproves applications for construction or expansion of health care facilities to avoid unnecessary duplication of such facilities and promotes development of facilities in areas where needed.”
As a current member of the ANA-Illinois legislative committee, Savage says there are many ways to get involved if you’re politically inclined or simply want to affect your state’s legislation. “ANA and ANA-Illinois continue to stay on top of the issues and advocate for nurses, as they always have. They work hard to make things better for nurses and educate them. The networking and resources available on their websites can really help. Simply talking to members, hearing the issues that they’re facing, and realizing they’re the same as your own; it lets you know you are not alone.” She adds, “I also don’t want to downplay the fact that if you talk to your legislators about an issue or piece of legislation important to you, one person can make a difference. Ideally, if we all did that at once, they’d be bombarded and have to listen. But, when that’s not the case, we just have to remember to speak loudly.”
A call to action
Asked why nurses should vote, Savage explains, “I think two things: the suffrage movement for women nurses and that of our African American colleagues who had to work for so long, and so very, very hard. It is amazing all that they have gone through for this right. It is our hard-fought right to vote, and thus, we should.”
Savage also had some words of encouragement for her fellow nurses. “Consider whether joining politics or running for office might be of interest to you. Because I think we need a lot more women and a lot more nurses, male and female, to run for office. We have a unique perspective from the healthcare environment we’ve been in and our interactions with patients, doctors, and hospitals’ CEOs. We have a lot to offer, and I hope more will want to get involved.”