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Nursing Students Head to Capitol Hill

Austin Smith and Ben Lee with Captain Sophia Russell, Director of Nursing and Public Health at the Health Resources & Services Administration

PhD candidate Ben Lee and graduating senior Austin Smith attended the 2019 AACN Student Policy Summit in April. This three-day conference held in Washington, DC immerses students in didactic program sessions focused on the federal policy process and nursing’s role in professional advocacy.

The focus of the Summit is to engage student nurses in the policy process and equip them with the tools needed to advocate for issues pertaining to health care and nursing practice. AACN coordinated visits to Capitol Hill for students to meet directly with respective congressional offices to discuss  issues on behalf of academic nursing.

“We heard from a variety of speakers about the role of nurses in federal policy discussions,” said Austin Smith (BSN ’19). “Of note were talks from nurse leaders at National Institutes for Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, and closing remarks from congress’s newest nurse, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14th).”

UT Knoxville and Belmont nursing students on Capitol Hill

Lee and Smith joined students from other Tennessee schools of nursing for the Capitol Hill visits. They met with a member of Senator Marsha Blackburn’s health policy team where they advocated for the re-appropriation of Title VIII funding to support nursing education and nursing research.

They also engaged in similar conversations with Senator Lamar Alexander’s health policy advisors and had the opportunity to meet with the Senior Senator and former UT System President himself.

Smith explained the importance of meeting with leaders in the policy arena:  “It is our hope that the knowledge gained and discussions had at the AACN Student Policy Summit ensure a bright future for our ever-growing UT College of Nursing, as well as the nursing profession at-large.”

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