From March 23 – 24, 2014, UHM Nursing master’s students Laura Reichhardt, Gregory Gee, and Elizabeth Alonzo traveled to Washington D.C. for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Student Policy Summit Institute. The AACN Student Policy Summit is a conference dedicated to coaching baccalaureate and graduate students on how to immerse themselves in the advocacy and policy process. They joined students from around the country hearing from national leaders in nursing about policy development, future trends in health care, and network with peers. The Summit is a great opportunity for students to connect with and see our policymakers at work.
The Summit is designed to mentor students in policy process and provide a supportive environment to integrate into nursing advocacy roles. The conference featured a wide range of speakers, including Dr. Beatrice J. Kalisch from the University of Michigan, School of Nursing who gave a tantalizing talk on the past and present image of the nurse, what the voice of nursing has said over the years, and how this has impacted policy. Other speakers such as Congressman Alan D. Wheat told his story of hard work and why he got involved. Elizabeth Alonzo said that she “learned that the profession of nursing has traditionally had a small voice with many messages, but today nursing professionals are pushing to have a clear voice with a singular message in order to influence policy change.”
In addition to the seminars, UHM Nursing students joined Dean Boland to visit the Hawaii Congressional Delegation. Additionally, they talked with Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono at their Tuesday Talk Story breakfast. During these visits to legislative offices, the students told their stories of how policy impacts their practice and education and asked for support of AACN nursing policy objectives. During the Talk Story breakfast, the students met other health professionals and individuals who had taken constituent roles and had come to advocate their agendas. While the students were apprehensive going into their first meetings with the Hawaii Senators and legislative aides, by their last visit their confidence had grown and it was evident that their stories and experiences mattered.
The students found this experience extremely enriching on a multitude of levels. The AACN policy development team mentored and advised the students and reinforced the idea that they can make a difference and that their voice is important. The speakers were inspiring and encouraged the students to continue to pursue opportunities to make a difference—by supporting candidates who support nursing issue, advocating to legislators, and seizing opportunities to make a difference their community. For Alonzo, a resident of Hilo, visiting the Capital allowed her to feel more connected to our national government—living in Hawaii she felt far removed from national issues—and this trip helped her to bridge that gap. The Summit was an excellent experience for all of the students who participated.
For more information about the AACN Student Policy Summit visit http://www.aacn.nche.edu/government-affairs/student-policy-summit or the Dean’s Office at (808) 956-8522.