Jason Fisher, BSN, RN-BC, CCRN-CMC, a MSN/FNP graduate student, and Suzanna Thiese, a BSN student, recently attended the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Student Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. The three day conference hosted speakers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and individuals with past and present policy involvement.

With more than 200 College of Nursing deans, undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students in various programs and specialties from across the country in attendance, Fisher and Thiese had the opportunity to learn about their peers’ work, goals, dreams for the nursing profession and the delivery of healthcare.

“Like many nurses, I find health policy at the federal level to be intimidating and question whether I have the time to be involved,” Fisher said. “The Summit was a great opportunity to gain experience under the guidance and support of AACN, government affairs staff, a lobbying firm, and deans from Ohio various colleges of nursing.”

Fisher and Thiese, along with deans and other students from Ohio, spent the second day of the conference at Capitol Hill. The previous evening’s activities focused on sharing concerns about specific policy issues and learning how to build a relationship with the legislators. The group participated in meetings with the offices of Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman, in addition to Congressman David Joyce.

“We visited Capitol Hill at a unique time in healthcare. The healthcare proposal was being debated that week and the budget [would be] approved soon,” said Thiese. “We spoke with our Representatives and Senators about our concerns on both of these topics, and the next week the Healthcare Proposal was redacted. It was very empowering to feel like we were part of the influence that caused those events to take place.”

In addition to meeting with the legislators, Summit attendees were encouraged to be passionate, courageous and memorable if they wanted to make a difference in the nursing profession.

“The Summit was a pivotal experience in my career and has ignited my professional engagement into a full-blown passion to contribute to nursing’s efforts to shape the future of healthcare delivery,” said Fisher. “As members of the largest and most trusted profession in healthcare, we have a responsibility to lead for our patients, families, communities, and country. Our experience at the bedside, along with our academic preparation, allows us to bring unique and holistic viewpoints to the public debate about creating a sustainable healthcare system.”

Although Thiese was one of the youngest in attendance, she encourages her fellow students to attend the conference in the future.

“It is important for nurses to be politically aware. We are patient advocates, and policies are developed to impact patients and patient care. This conference taught me there is a difference between politics and policy.”