Setting up a site visit

How many people, besides your health care peers, understand what an RDN does? We would venture to say not many, including the legislators who will vote on legislation that could directly impact your career. Like most people, a legislator’s first-hand experiences are a major factor in determining his or her perceptions about a particular issue or concern.

Arranging for an on-site visit is one way to make sure your legislator or legislative aide has a positive first-hand experience upon which they can build their opinions about RDNs. A visit to the facility where you work will allow a legislator to see the full impact of an RD’s role in positive patient outcomes.

A well-conducted on-site visit can help change or shape your legislator’s perceptions, while providing additional opportunities to build communication between you and the legislator. Begin by issuing an invitation to the legislator or his or her aide on health concerns.

When you issue the invitation, determine how long your guest can stay. Two hours is ideal, but you will need to work within their schedule. Visits should be scheduled at the beginning of the business day, so that your visitors are fresh and have less chance of being delayed by prior engagements. Welcoming your visitors with nutritious snacks, juice, and coffee is a nice touch.

Prepare for a site visit as you would a meeting at the legislator’s office. Know what you want to convey and the order in which you want to present your information. Provide a written summary of the presentation that your visitors can take with them.

Begin your presentation with an overview of the facility, particularly the nutrition department. Include information such as the number of employees, the types of services provided and the number of patients served per day. Also, discuss the training requirement for the profession, as well as the development of clinical guidelines.

Take a tour of the facility, emphasizing the variety of patients RDNs serve and identifying specialty areas as well. Allow ample time to answer any questions the legislator may ask.

When your legislator has a good perspective of the broad scope of the RDN’s role and abilities, begin discussing your key issues and concerns. Finish your visit with a strong appeal to emotion. Translate your requests into a positive effect on people in the community or state and the effect on health care costs, delivery and quality outcomes. Here are some final tips:

  • Prepare well
  • Include multiple participants
  • Advocate for the patients, stressing quality care and cost savings
  • Prepare a hand-out packet
  • Follow-up after the visit and continue to build on the relationship

After you’ve established a positive relationship with a legislator through a face-to- face meeting, an on-site visit or correspondence, it may be appropriate to set up a meeting or fundraiser for the legislator with a large group of RDNs from the district or state. This meeting serves two primary purposes: 1) To provide a forum for many RDs to voice their concerns to the legislator and 2) to help solidify the relationship between the legislator and dietitians, letting the legislator know the importance of national and state issues affecting local RDNs.

The legislator will want to attend the meeting to attract potential voters. You can illustrate the broad voter base by highlighting the number of RDNs directly affected by proposed legislation and by underscoring how many patients of nutritional care are positively impacted by the profession.