April 7, 2006

VUSN students get firsthand look at legislative process

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Photo by Dana Johnson

VUSN students get firsthand look at legislative process

Vanderbilt nursing students let their voices be heard during the annual Tennessee Nurses Association's Legislative Summit on Capitol Hill last week.

The 1,100-seat auditorium in the James K. Polk building was filled to capacity with nursing students from 19 schools across the state there to share, learn and discuss the hottest legislative issues facing the nursing profession.

“We are here today for you, our students, but most importantly for our patients,” said Michael Briley, chair of the Tennessee Nursing Association's Government Affairs Committee. “Nursing is under attack on many levels and we need your involvement.”

During this legislative session, more than 4,000 bills have been introduced, approximately half of which impact health care in some way. State Senators Diane Black and Rosalind Kurita, both registered nurses, reported on several important bills to watch this session

Anitra Ellerby-Brown, a first-year, pre-specialty student, represented Vanderbilt University School of Nursing during the official roll call. Banners waved and students cheered as she shared the VUSN contingent's two greatest concerns: equitable access to care and health care for the uninsured.

“Today is about getting nurses involved,” said Ellerby-Brown. “It's hard to know all the issues, but we each need to get involved to have a greater impact. That's the best route to making a difference.”

Stephanie Nipper represented the 30 students enrolled in the VUSN partnership with David Lipscomb University that allows students to take two years worth of VUSN courses toward a B.S.N. awarded by Lipscomb.

Betsy Kennedy, M.S.N., instructor in Nursing, organizes Vanderbilt's participation in the event each year, encouraging students to learn about the legislative process and which bills impact nursing's future.

“Participation in this event helps the students understand that patient advocacy extends beyond the clinical scope. Active involvement with professional nursing associations such as the Tennessee Nurses Association and the American Nurses Association ensures that the collective voices of nurses are heard and are a guiding force in the future of health care,” said Kennedy.

After the rally on Capitol Hill, students scheduled appointments with legislators to discuss the issues and were also planning to write letters to other political leaders.