AACN Student Policy Summit: Bradley student experience

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Katelyn Stites ‘10, RN, BSN

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Student Policy Summit is an opportunity for nursing students and faculty from all over the United States to come together as one voice to stand up for the nursing profession. This year the “Summit welcomed 198 students, representing 92 schools in 38 states across the nation”, shared Juliann G. Sebastian, the AACN Board Chair.

My name is Katelyn Stites, and I am a current online MSN-FNP student at Bradley University. I was asked by Dr. Cindy Brubaker, chairperson of the Bradley University Department of Nursing, to represent the department at the AACN Student Summit in Washington, D.C., March 19–21, 2017. The summit brought together graduate and undergraduate nursing students from across the United States to learn more about health care policy and its impact on the nursing profession. The highlight of the experience was making a trip to Capitol Hill to educate our legislators regarding the importance of funding nursing education and research.

The nursing shortage continues to be an issue, and many of my colleagues feel frustrated and overworked because of inappropriate staff-patient ratios. Add this to long, physically-exhaustive hours spent at work, and patient safety becomes an issue. Thus, it was imperative to voice the importance of funding nursing education in order to get more nurses out there into the work force. It was a wonderful feeling to know I was standing up for those who have grown weary in a profession they once adored. I also may have helped someone afford to pursue his or her dream of becoming a nurse. Most importantly, however, I was standing up for patients, which is always a nurse’s number one priority.

Bradley students Katelyn Stites and Nicole Delinski

During the classroom sessions at the Student Policy Summit, various speakers presented to attendees about their experiences advocating for the nursing profession. Many of these speakers spent years at the bedside, aware of the issues that needed to be addressed by Congress. These individuals took the initiative and decided to become involved in health care policy. It is to these professionals that many of us owe our gratitude, for they have spent countless hours lobbying on ways to make nurses’ lives, as well as, the lives of our patients better.

The question remains as to how one may become involved in health care legislation. Here is how you can get started!

  1. The first step is easy; think of a health care issue you feel passionate about.
  2. Next, do your research and get involved:
    a. Join a local coalition.
    b. Address your concerns to hospital hierarchy.
  3. Rally with other nurses who share the same ideas as you. One voice is great, but think about what one thousand voices can accomplish.

Nurses of all levels of education have the responsibility and duty to advocate for our patients. Will you take the initiative?