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Two UW nursing students, Brenna Cain and Morgan Lu, won the opportunity to be in Washington, DC in March with Nursing Dean Mary Burman at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's (AACN) annual Student Policy Summit. The students both took advantage of the Dean's offer to take up to two students to the Summit in order to advocate for issues important to the nursing profession. To show their interest, they sent their winning 1-2 paragraph requests outlining why they would like to attend the summit and what they would do with the knowledge and skills gained.
What is the Summit? the event teaches students how to advocate for the nursing profession and shows them how policies are developed at the federal level. Lu and Cain experienced first-hand the professional culture of DC, meeting with members of congress and their staff, engaging with nursing policy leaders.
About Cain and her two biggest impressions:
Brenna Cain will be graduating as a Family Nurse Practitioner from the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program this summer.
"First," says Cain, "I was very inspired to network with other nursing students, both undergraduate and graduate, who were focused on using their nursing expertise to change policy. Baccalaureate students becoming aware and active at such an early point in their nursing career is exactly the kind of involvement we need in our country.
Second, one of the most important takeaways for me was understanding the difference between politics and policy. Especially in an increasingly polarized political scene, it is imperative to learn to truly work with other parties to create beneficial healthcare policy."
About Lu and her feelings, thoughts and experiences:
Morgan Lu is a junior in UW's on-campus Basic BSN program option.
"Upon arriving in D.C.," says Lu, "I became enamored by the deep history and sense of pride and empowerment that run through the streets of the city. One of our guest speakers put it best: 'Washington D.C. is where people come to be heard, to speak change, and to disagree.' I loved it. I had no idea what these 3 days would hold, but I was excited."
Daunting sense of responsibility
After the first day, I learned that AACN was counting on us--the students--to bring their voice as a nursing profession to Capitol Hill. Initially, my heart dropped right out of my body and hit the ground. ME?! I was so nervous. I didn't know what to say, how to advocate, what background knowledge I should have etc. However, I found myself excited rather than scared. We were going to speak with Senators and House of Representatives from our respective states to make sure the voices of the nursing profession were heard.
Empowered through research
Lu continues, "We spent that entire first day and late in to the hours of the night, researching these topics and how they specifically correlated to Wyoming and how each policy would be perceived by the respective Congressmen we would be speaking with. As prepared as we could be, we left for Capitol Hill the next day to meet with Senators Enzi and Barasso, with the hopes of advocating for title viii, increased funding for nursing research and gun violence, and increased awareness for opioid treatment access. I felt empowered, believed in, and had a sense of responsibilty as I marched up to Capitol Hill."
No longer a bystander
"As nurses," continues Lu, "and especially nursing students, we sometimes fall into the bystander affect of hoping someone else will stop and help or make a change, myself included. But what I learned from this trip is that we need to be the ones to take action. As Congressman Shadegg said "You need to be the change." If not us nurses, then who? We are at the frontlines of patient care. Who is going to inform, advocate and make known the issues within our healthcare systems if it isn't us, nurses?"
Lu wraps it up: "So, overall, this experience has taught me how important it is to be an active member of change. Our Congressional staff want to hear from us! And nurses are some of the most trusted people on Capitol Hill. We have a huge platform to make our patients' needs known on a federal level, and if we are not the ones speaking out for change, then who is?
"Again, thank you so much Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing for this incredible opportunity to go to Washington D.C. so that I might be introduced to the realm of nursing advocacy and policy within our government."