BC nurses head to Olympia for Nurse Legislation Day

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On February 13, nursing students in their fifth quarter of the full-time nursing program traveled to Olympia to attend Nurse Legislative Day at the Washington Center for Performing Arts to learn about nurse leadership and responsibilities.

Every student in their second year of the associate’s degree nursing program can go and learn “how nurses are involved in advocating for health at the state, community and policy level,” said Teaessa Chism, one of the faculty members organizing the event. The event was organized by Nursing Student Association officers Jesse Mariano and Laura Charette, and NSA faculty advisor Jean Irons Dendy and Teaessa Chism.

“At the event students will meet other nurses from across the state and other students from nursing programs. There will be a panel of nurses discussing healthcare policy,” explained Chism. “Governor Jay Inslee will also speak on healthcare in WA state, and legislative healthcare priorities.”

According to the Washington State Nurses Association website, during Nurse Legislative Day, students learn about the issues facing nurses, nursing and health in Washington. Students attending the event learn how to become powerful advocates for patient care.

In preparation for Nurse Legislation Day, the Washington State Nursing Association met with the nursing students to assess their knowledge on the healthcare policy in Washington. They also discuss the priorities of the legislative year with them. “Students are given suggestions on professionalism and communication styles to facilitate collaboration on healthcare policy,” said Chism. Then, the students travel to Olympia to attend the event with other nurses across Washington State.

The 2017 legislative healthcare priorities that were discussed included budget and policy priorities. Budget priorities included public health funding, a student loan repayment program, nurse education funding and school nurse funding. Policy priorities included school nurse supervision, balanced billing for medical debt and addressing the opioid crisis by enhancing the prescription drug monitoring program.

After reviewing the priorities and a group session of the nursing panel of speakers, students then considered their position on the healthcare initiative. They consider their position based on their experiences as a student and readings. Students then formed small groups based on their legislative district, each one discussing the “key healthcare priorities and share experiences in their community,” said Chism.

Upon their return, the nursing students developed “an understanding and ethical responsibility,” said Chism. They also learned to “identify their legislative district and how to review how their legislature voted on previous healthcare policy or point of view on pending legislative topics.” From their experiences, the students learned how to show leadership in the field of nursing through measures to promote safety and reduce errors when caring for patients.

The Washington State Nurses Association works to provide representation and training to nurses, creating a collective voice to advocate for patient safety, safe staffing and fair compensation. They have been providing registered nurses the structure to assume an active role in influencing areas of professional practice and policy development.