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Two UW Nursing Students Advocate for Profession at D.C. Summit

April 2, 2018
two women standing in front of the Capitol
UW nursing students Morgan Lu, left, and Brenna Cain pose in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The two recently attended the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s annual Student Policy Summit, where they learned to become advocates for the nursing profession. (Mary Burman Photo)

Two University of Wyoming nursing students recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for issues important to the nursing profession at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) annual Student Policy Summit.

Morgan Lu, a junior nursing major from Mead, Colo., and Brenna Cain, of Casper, a Doctor of Nursing candidate scheduled to graduate this summer, were in the nation’s capital March 25-27. Mary Burman, dean of the UW Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, accompanied the students.

The summit teaches students how to advocate for the nursing profession and shows them how policies develop at the federal level. Lu and Cain experienced, firsthand, the professional culture of D.C.; met with members of Congress and their staff; and engaged with nursing policy leaders.

“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,” Cain says. “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.”

After the first day of the conference, Lu says she learned that the AACN was counting on 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,” Lu recalls. “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 representatives from our respective states to make sure the voices of the nursing profession were heard.”

The two met with U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi during their visit. The students advocated for Title VIII (nursing workforce development programs); increased funding for nursing research and anti-gun violence; and more awareness for opioid treatment access.

“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,” Lu says. “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?”

“One of the most important takeaways, for me, was the difference between politics and policy,” Cain adds. “Especially, in an increasingly polarized political scene, it is imperative to learn to truly work with other parties to create beneficial health care policy.”

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