Nursing students advocate for health policies on Capitol Hill

Media Credit: Anne McBride | Hatchet Photographer

Three nursing students and the nursing school's dean advocated for health-care policies on Capitol Hill last month.

Nursing school students and the school’s top official are making their voices heard on Capitol Hill.

The dean of the School of Nursing and three students lobbied for legislative action on issues affecting nursing and health care on Capitol Hill last month. The school’s dean, Pamela Jeffries, said it is important that the students are involved in advocating for health-care-related policies.

One master’s and two doctor of nursing students joined Jeffries on the Hill. Jeffries said they attended a three-day conference hosted by the Association of Colleges of Nursing last month, and had the chance to talk to lawmakers and their staffs about legislation.

The group promoted student access, research and Title VIII workforce funding, which provides the largest source of federal funding for nursing education, Jeffries said.

“It is imperative that nurses participate in and affect health care policy to improve our nation’s health care system while driving improvements in positive patient outcomes,” she said.

Jeffries joined the School of Nursing last year and planned to increase fundraising and research.

Jeffries said the group’s efforts created a deeper understanding of the health care environment for lawmakers that are not involved in the field. She said they showed the need for nursing research, workforce development and education in the health care profession.

She said the nursing school “continues to deliver on its commitment to research and policy.”

“We take great pride in offering our students unique and powerful learning experiences like Capitol Hill visits,” Jeffries said.

Tara Brandner, an online doctor of nursing student, traveled from North Dakota to attend the conference. She said she was interested in attending because she has seen how policy affects her job as a nurse practitioner and because she is passionate about rural health care issues.

She said it was rewarding to come to the District to meet Jeffries and have a unique experience on Capitol Hill.

“As someone who is from rural North Dakota, to be able to go out there and have that experience and be selected to do that was nice,” Bradner said.

Brandner said she sat in four meetings with legislative staffers from North Dakota and D.C. The group mostly met with Senate and House of Representatives staffers because legislators were on recess, but she said it was rewarding to meet with staff who work on these issues every day.

“They are the ones that do the research and look into the issues and update each one of them about what is going on,” Brandner said. “The best part was actually sitting down with them, and even though it wasn’t legislators we sat down with, you could feel how passionate they actually were.”

Courtney Reed, a master’s of nursing student who attended the conference, said she developed an interest in the policy side of nursing after she took a health policy course.

“Our professor really did a good job of outlining the importance of health policy,” Reed said. “Because she challenged me to grow, my interest in policy grew as well.”

She added that prior to her class she had no legislative experience, and the conference prepared her for the Hill visit.

“By going to the policy summit it really helped me to understand that my voice really matters,” Reed said.

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