From Youth Centers to the Capitol: Rodney Duckett, 2019 ANAI participant
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Posted by: Kanaka Sathasivan
By Kanaka Sathasivan, MPH
Every year, Texas Nurses Association (TNA) selects one participant for the American Nurses Advocacy Institute (ANAI). The institute develops nurses into stronger political leaders and motivates change from the grassroots of nursing. Participants travel to the D.C. area to learn more about advocacy and work with their local state nurses association on a policy project. TNA is excited to announce Rodney Duckett as this year’s participant.
Rodney Duckett, BSN, RN, NREMT-P, has always felt connected to the field of health. Even as a child he enjoyed doctor’s visits and interacting with nurses. A native of Tulsa, OK, Duckett joined the United States Army at age 19 as a quartermaster. Part of his training included the Combat Livesaver Course, which is where his interest in nursing truly started. From emergency medical technician to paramedic to registered nurse and soon-to-be nurse practitioner, he built his skills and expertise from the ground up.
“The mastery of the skills of ABC (airway, breathing and circulation) has become the bedrock of my practice,” Duckett says. Working in crisis care, he also developed crucial soft skills such as conducting himself professionally in stressful situations and recognizing the impending signs of an emergency.
After 10 years in the emergency department, Duckett had the opportunity to travel abroad. “I used my nursing skills to run my own clinic in Baghdad and Rustamiyah, Iraq. Ultimately, I became an area medical supervisor in Taji, Iraq, overseeing expatriate and foreign nationals as they worked on military installations.” It was in Iraq that he met Ron Peterson, a nurse practitioner who encouraged him to go back to school for an advanced degree. Duckett enrolled in a nurse practitioner program in 2017.
Along with his job as a nurse, Duckett has a deep interest in policy work and grassroots advocacy, especially with youth. “Over the last decade. I have been committed to better understanding the health impacts of childhood detainees, mental health of juvenile detainees of nonviolent crimes and social determinants of health. I work closely with juvenile detention centers in Texas through my nonprofit: IMPAC Outreach.”
His work with youth started his path towards advocacy. “The juvenile justice system turns a blind eye to adolescents with severe mental health disorders, often sending them away without getting them the help they need. For me this has been extremely frustrating, and it has ignited a fire within me to pick up this torch and become a mouthpiece for the voiceless.”
The opportunity to learn on a national stage and use that knowledge to help curtail the social determinants of health affecting disenfranchised communities led him to apply for ANAI. “To watch a child grow up in a detention center at age 7, return numerous times until he is 17, then do another 10 years of adult time is the most heartbreaking thing that you will ever experience,” Duckett says. “When society says we failed him and it’s safer to lock him away due to mental illness that was never addressed in the system—that is my frustration and my motivation.”
The opportunity to work with people at multiple levels of policy making also interested Duckett. “There is something captivating about taking practicality and theory and transforming it into policy that will influence our society,” he says about joining the institute. “In order to get things done you must network with eager-minded, ambitious nurses, advocates and legislators desperate for change. I’m excited for this unique opportunity to pair my current knowledge with education and experience in a political environment I have yet to experience.”
Duckett hopes to ultimately become an agent of change, particularly to “transform the narrative of current policies with critical thinking and foresight for the future of health care, whether 10, 20, or 50 years from now.” His ultimate goal is to gain a variety of policy experiences, develop political partnerships and work with legislators to become a proficient health care policy advisor.
In the end, the motivation he had at age 19 to help others still serves him today. “Nurses are underappreciated and overlooked when it comes to their expertise and input,” he says. He hopes that through this journey, he can bring greater awareness to systemic issues and learn how nurses can work with lawmakers to change things for the better.