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The Politics of Nursing

Members of the University of Utah Nursing Program headed to Washington D.C. earlier this month for an intense course on improving communication, reaching out to lawmakers, and affecting meaningful change when it comes to health care policy in the United States. This was the second year of the day long D.C. immersive workshop, put together for nursing students attending the Hinckley Institute's Capital Encounter by several alums of the U's nursing program. Last year, in 2013, just two students took part, but this year six young nurses learned the basics of the elevator pitch, and the ins and outs of talking policy just like a D.C. veteran.

Nurses in Washington D.C.

"I feel more educated in how public policy is formed, funded, and negotiated," says nursing student Melissa Alm, one of the 2014 participants, "I can see myself now becoming a problem solver, not just a problem identifier who doesn't know where to start affecting change." Program creator and U alumnae Eileen Engh, who has been working in D.C. says that's the point, and that nurses need to know they have an important voice. "The decision makers often need what nurses readily know," says Engh. "It's never too early to empower nursing students to use the power of what they know, and to prepare them with skills to communicate with people that are not nurses."

The student nurses were able to put their skills to use during their trip, meeting with Congressman Rob Bishop (R, Utah, 1st district) and Congressman Chris Stewart (R, Utah, 2nd district). Alm says the training was useful "when keeping politicians focused on the issues instead of allowing a side step into one of their favorite unrelated talking points."

During the trip the nurses also visited Arlington National Cemetery, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court.