In March 2022, UW-Milwaukee College of Nursing sent two doctoral students to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Student Policy Summit in Washington, DC. Students were invited to submit an abstract addressing their interest in attending the conference, which the College’s Research Committee reviewed. This was the first time in many years that students were given a sponsored opportunity to participate in this conference, which offers extensive and immersive sessions focused on the federal policy process and nursing’s role in professional advocacy.
Aisha Kendrick (PhD in Nursing student) and Pamela L. Souders (DNP student) competed and were selected to attend as representatives on the College’s behalf. The conference is structured for undergraduate and graduate students, and attendees participate in sessions so everyone hears the same programming. In addition, students are seated with others from around the nation to network, discuss and gain perspectives from current students of all levels.
Kendrick shared that she wanted to attend the conference as she’s highly interested in policy. Her dissertation is on black maternal morbidity and mortality, and policy/laws surrounding her work are changing rapidly. She shared, “I’m interested in centering the voices of Black women. During pregnancy, Black women have higher rates of morbidity and mortality than other races.” She shared how attending this conference impacted her research and outlook on nursing policy. “I learned the importance of nursing advocacy and how much research informs policy. I’m able to be here as a PhD student because of the opportunities of the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019.”
Souders applied to attend the conference because advocacy is important to her and the patients she serves as a nurse practitioner in a trauma unit. She said, “I feel like I’m at the point in my career where I can eloquently speak of our profession. Everyone needs to know where their voice is – and where it fits.” She explained, “I learned I have to know and understand when to say something, understand the current political climate and when to bring policy issues forward.” Souders shared she’s had a burning desire to learn more about policy, which triggered her desire to pursue her doctoral degree. “I realized nurses can’t act alone. We must start taking the steps forward to bring our voice together. Our profession has a lot of credibility, but the problem with nursing is it can be hard to understand our various roles.”
Both, Kendrick and Souders expressed their deep gratitude for this opportunity and ability to meet with nurses and those entering the profession. You can learn more about the conference at: https://www.aacnnursing.org/SPS.