March 5, 2004

Nursing students converge on Capitol Hill

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Nearly 150 students from the School of Nursing attended “Nursing Students On the Move: Capitol Hill Day” last week. (photo by Cheri Glass)

Nursing students converge on Capitol Hill

Nearly 150 students from the School of Nursing joined hundreds of other students and professionals in their field from across the state last week on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill. The nurses gathered for “Nursing Students On the Move: Capitol Hill Day,” a convention-style political rally for nursing students and registered nurses.

The annual event, organized by the Tennessee Nurses Association (TNA), provides nursing students with the opportunity to hear from legislators on issues impacting the nursing profession.

“We’re here today to take our issues to the people who can do something about them,” said Maureen Nalle, Ph.D., R.N., president of the TNA.

Celena Williams, L.P.N., a first-year student at VUSN who worked previously as an OB nurse, was chosen by her classmates to address the crowd of attendees on their behalf and state the nursing issue they find most concerning.

“We chose to bring up self-regulation of the Advanced Practice Nurse, so it continues to be decided jointly between the Board of Nursing and the Board of Medical Examiners and not solely under the governing body of the American Medical Association,” said Williams.

Current legislation up for consideration by lawmakers seeks to remove the word “joint” from previous legislation passed regarding governance of Advanced Practice Nurses. “The bill would remove the Board of Nursing’s influence and all decisions would go to the AMA,” said Williams. She said attending the Capitol Hill Day event was an important step to making sure legislators know their stance on the issue. “It’s important for us to be here so we continue to have a voice in nursing legislation, because legislators will be making decisions on our behalf. We can’t sit back silently and let someone else make the decisions for us,” she added.

Betsy Kennedy, M.S.N., lecturer in Nursing, escorts students from her Professional Foundations of Nursing class to the event each year.

“My main goal in bringing the students to this event is for them to have an understanding of how politics directly affects their practice and the importance of being involved in professional nursing organizations,” said Kennedy. “Students generally have a positive response to the event and come away feeling energized and enthusiastic about the future of professional nursing and their involvement in shaping that future,” she added.

VUSN students learned about the legislative priorities lawmakers with close ties to nursing are concerned about on the Hill. Representative Diane Black, a registered nurse who spent more than 30 years in various areas of nursing, addressed the crowd concerning several issues, including a bill to restrict use of the title of nurse to only those who are a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse.

“We want to make sure technicians or other people patients might see in their doctor’s office can’t use the title ‘nurse’,” Black said.

After the assembly, students from all of the schools in attendance were encouraged to spend the afternoon meeting one on one with legislators, and attending committee meetings and floor sessions.