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Closing the Gap Between Nurses and Health Policy at Lobby Day

June 25, 2015

On May 12, Drexel nursing students took to Harrisburg to advocate for their profession by joining more than 225 nurses, nurse practitioners and students (all in white coats) in lobbying for House Bill 765 and Senate Bill 717. If passed, the bills will allow nurse practitioners to practice independently in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, without the oversight of collaborating physicians.

Catherine Cassel, a brand new Drexel University graduate with a BS in nursing, who also spent 10 years as a US Army nurse, participated in the trip because of her personal attachment to the nurse practitioner role. Cassel was accepted to Drexel University Online’s nurse practitioner program and will begin in September.

 “Coming from different aspects of healthcare, such as military and also civilian, I can see the impact nurse practitioners have on access to care. I think it’s important that they have their full right to practice and not have to fall under a physician,” she said. Patients will benefit as well from lower health care costs and increased access to care.

Not only was the trip critical in supporting current and future nurse practitioners, but the student attendees gained a valuable learning experience in health policy.

Kristen Altdoerffer, PhD, assistant clinical professor, was instrumental in organizing the trip, from writing a proposal and obtaining faculty support to recruiting students and arming them with talking points.

“One of the reasons this is so important is that we need to close the gap between nurses and health policy. The goal was to bring students to Lobby Day to expose them to the legislative process and help them realize that legislators are real people. If we bring students to Lobby Day, hopefully they will integrate health policy advocacy into their profession, or if they go on to advanced degrees, it will be more natural to them. Overall, it makes them advocate for the profession and also their patients,” said Altdoerffer.

Each student visited the senator or representative from their district to tie key points about the importance of the bills to his or her own personal story. Altdoerffer said, “It really showed why it was important to our nursing students to have the legislation pass.”

The reactions of participating students were overwhelmingly positive. Cassel said of the experience, “A lot of nurses feel as though someone else is handling the government piece of the profession. But that’s how changes are made – you become an advocate for yourself.”