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Currents: nurses on a national stage

Colby-Sawyer Students Attend Inaugural Nursing Student Policy Summit, Lobby for Reform

When President Obama signed the Health Care Reform Bill into law this spring, three senior Colby-Sawyer nursing students were in Washington, D.C. working toward further health policy reform.

Gladys A. Burrows Distinguished Professor of Nursing, and chair of the Nursing Department, Susan Reeves, accompanied Adam Clay of Topsfield, Mass., Sandra Guglielmi of Billerica, Mass. and Tori Hotton of North Haven, Conn., to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's (AACN) inaugural three-day Nursing Student Policy Summit. Sponsored by the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence and the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing's Future, the summit coincided with AACN's 2010 Spring Annual Meeting and featured presentations by policy experts, discussions with Washington insiders, lobbying visits to U.S. members of Congress, and networking opportunities.

The three high-performing students were nominated by nursing faculty in recognition of expressed interest in health policy. They were the only students from northern New England and among fewer than 15 undergraduate students of the 135 who attended.

“I was able to take these students to the Summit because of funding made possible by Tom and Judy Csatari, who created my distinguished professorship endowment,” says Professor Reeves. “Highlights of the conference included visits to the offices of New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Representative Paul Hodes to discuss issues germane to nursing education and nursing research. Our students were superb in these meetings and the conference ended with them being inducted into the Student Policy Academy as the inaugural class.”

The trio received expert training in how to visit their legislators, and were coached in addressing two specific issues: funding for nursing education through Title 8 (Title 8 is the largest source of federal funding for nursing education and offers financial support for nursing education programs, students and nurses) and increased funding to the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR).

“The whole theme of the conference was how nursing can make a difference in health care, and it was really an incredible experience for the students. They were in very impressive company and more than held their own,” says Professor Reeves, her pride clear. “They were poised and prepared to speak, I can't even begin to tell you, they were so good.”

One highlight for Professor Reeves was when the three seniors met with Senator Shaheen's legislative aid for heath care, Dr. Manny Jimenez, a Joseph Kennedy Jr. Foundation of Public Policy fellow. They asked that the senator consider joining a new Senate Nursing Caucus, a forum addressing the needs and issues of the more than 3 million registered nurses in the United States. Dr. Jimenez wrote a few weeks later to say that while she had not done that, she had signed on to the request for increased funding for nursing education.

“The students were like 'Oh my gosh, she did that because we asked her to!'” says Professor Reeves. “It really is possible that their request led her to take that action, which is very exciting.”

All three nursing students are now employed at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center: Adam Clay is in critical care at the ICU, Sandra Guglielmi in the Birthing Pavilion, and Tori Hotton in inpatient surgery services.