Six Myths that Are Stopping You from Visiting Capitol Hill

We know from experience that even the intelligent, educated, and passionate people that make up the PA education profession can find the idea of meeting with congressional staff intimidating. But if we want our representatives to pass legislation that supports PAs and those who educate them, we need them to hear our point of view. After all, If we don’t advocate for ourselves, who will?

The good news is that visiting Capitol Hill isn’t as daunting as it seems. In fact, it’s not daunting at all. Here are six misperceptions that we commonly hear and the truth behind them.

Myth #1: Capitol Hill is scary.

Fact: PAEA’s Government Relations staff is really good at what they do — not only will they explain the process and answer your questions, they can accompany you on your Capitol Hill visit. You may not meet with your actual representative but instead with a member of their staff, such as a legislative director or legislative assistant. The staffer will pass along your feedback to their boss.

Myth #2: Members of Congress don’t care what I think

Fact: The bottom line is your representatives work for you, and they care about what you think. A 2011 survey asked congressional staff to rank the most important aspect of their jobs — 95% said staying in touch with their constituents. If there’s a bill that you have an opinion about, present your point of view. Otherwise, the meeting is an excellent opportunity to lay a foundation, such as educating them about what PAs do and why they’re important.

Myth #3: My visit isn’t going to yield any results.

Fact: When asked on a survey what most influences a member of Congress’ pending decision, congressional staff cited constituent visits. In the past, our visits have yielded member requests on behalf of PA education and visits by congressmen to local PA programs. Though it is sometimes difficult to quantify the results, building relationships is essential to reaching our long-term goals.

Myth #4: You have to have a lot of time.

Fact: If you’re in the Washington, D.C., area and have a free hour or two, you have enough time to visit Capitol Hill. The complex is easily accessible by Metro transit, and the actual meetings typically last about 15 minutes.

Myth #5: You have to have a certain personality type.

Fact: All kinds of people work on Capitol Hill, which means all kinds of people are needed to make connections with them. Introverts may tell their stories just as well — perhaps even better — than their extroverted counterparts.

Myth #6. You have to memorize talking points.

Fact: No one’s going to quiz you. All you need to talk about is your PA program and the impact of current and potential policies. There’s no need to extensively research bills or prepare talking points — you just need to present your perspective.

Ready to get involved? PAEA’s Government Relations staff is organizing a “Hill Day” in conjunction with November’s Education Forum in Washington, D.C. Stay tuned — we’ll have more details in the coming months.