March 7, 2003

Nurses march on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill during event

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More than 120 VUSN students attended the Capitol Hill Day last week to raise awareness for nursing. (photo courtesy of Tennessee Nurses Association)

Nurses march on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill during event

One hundred twenty-four students from the Vanderbilt School of Nursing joined hundreds of other nursing students from across the state in War Memorial Auditorium, near the State Capitol last week, to rally as part of Nurses and Students on the Move: Capitol Hill Day.

The yearly event, organized by the Tennessee Nurses Association (TNA), provides a chance for nursing students to learn first-hand how legislative policy directly impacts their profession and to speak one-on-one with their legislators.

“I’m delighted we had so many students and nurses on the Hill. Only when nurses become an intricate part of the political process, will they be able to most effectively advocate for their patients,” said Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing.

Betsy Kennedy, lecturer in Nursing, requires all first-year students in her Professional Foundations of Nursing classes to attend the event. "The students need to understand the importance of political action, not only in affecting change in health care, but also in having a voice in their own practice. If all of the 2.7 million registered nurses in this country were involved with their state and national level nurses' associations, the potential impact would be enormous."

First-year pre-specialty nursing student Serena Williams spoke to the crowd of nearly 1,600 nurses on the Hill, offering a roll-call of VUSN attendees and voicing their primary concern for lawmakers. “Vanderbilt has 124 students here and our major concern is funding for loan reimbursement for nurses at all levels.” Williams said loan reimbursement should be a consideration for policy makers involved with the state budget.

Nurse staff ratios and prescriptive privileges for nurse practitioners are also primary concerns of VUSN students and nurses, Williams said.

Wanda Neal Hooper, president of the Tennessee Nurses Association, said Williams and her colleagues are right to be concerned about both. “Our practice is completely regulated at the state level,” Hooper said, “Our practice is what the House and Senate says it is.”

Hooper said nurses can make a powerful impact by taking one simple step. “If they’re not registered to vote, they need to do so, because the single most important thing they can do is make an educated vote.”

The organization plans to hold a Spring Health Policy Summit April 8 at the Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel, with guest speaker Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D., Valere Potter Professor of Nursing. Buerhaus will address his research concerning the nursing shortage and its impact on the quality of care.

For more information on the Summit, contact the Tennessee Nurses Association at (615) 254-0350.