Voting is a way you can advocate for your patients and improve health outcomes.
I mailed in my voter’s registration this month. I’m a recent transplant to North Carolina to begin med school and decided to give up my Washington state voter rights so I could vote in North Carolina. I want to be able to vote for local and state-wide policies that will affect my community and my patients.
Increasingly, civic engagement and social justice work are being recognized as a key part of being a clinician. Voting is a form of advocacy. It’s a nearly effortless way to support the change you want to see in your community. It can also positively affect your patients’ health and well-being.
Historically, physicians have voted at lower rates than the general population. Barriers to voting for medical trainees abound and include lack of time off to get to the polls and confusion about how and when to register to vote.
Every health professional can help promote voter turnout:
1. Register to vote.
If you’re not already registered, you can by going to https://vote.gov/ and selecting your state or territory. This site will also inform you of the deadline to vote, which varies by state/territory. You can also look for voter registration fairs locally.
2. Ask your coworkers if they plan on voting.
If not, ask why and encourage them to vote even if they hold different political views than your own.
3. As an institutional leader, take action to decrease barriers to voting.
As a program or clerkship director, you can help decrease barriers to voting for your trainees. This may be as simple as a mass email with instructions on how to register to vote. Other ideas include hosting an on campus voter registration event and early release of medical students from rotations or classes to allow time to reach the polls.
Together we can all work towards creating a culture of civic engagement in medicine. Happy voting!