Salt Lake Community College Asst. Professor Donna Murphy RN, MSN, CPN collaborated with Michelle Swift RN, JD and current lobbyist for Utah Nurses Association (UNA) to hold a SLCC Student Nurses Day on Capitol Hill on March 4.
The goal of the event was to educate students on the legislative process in relation to the nursing profession and encourage them to consider running for office someday in the interest of having more Utah nurses on Capitol Hill. Nurses are a useful resource to legislators regarding many health care issues and can have influential input on potential bills.
“An important aspect in the profession of nursing is to be actively involved in the legislative process to help insure that our citizens receive the healthcare they need,” SLCC Nursing Division Chair Judy Scott said. “The faculty and staff of the Division of Nursing encourage our nursing students to interact both collectively and privately with their government representatives to let their voices be heard.”
SLCC nursing student attendees were thankful for the organization of the event.
“I am very grateful for being able to meet the different legislators and see the impact that we can make by taking an active role in getting to know those who represent us,” current nursing student Becky Allan said.
“Now we know how we can contribute to the community through the legislative process as a nurse. We can benefit the public by helping Legislators make appropriate decisions,” another current SLCC nursing student Mohammed Ahmed said.
It was an informative agenda; an initial presentation was from Tracey T. Schumann RN, BSN, CLNC, CPHM, who reviewed current legislation about bills affecting the nursing profession. She provided insight into how these bills overlap into direct patient care.
Discussion was done about the significance and reasons students should consider being a member of a professional organization such as UNA. Nursing students are given a discount on their first year membership upon graduation.
“There is so much more to nursing than just patient care. It is about what is happening in our community and our state that can impact us as a profession,” recent SLCC nursing graduate Jeff Scott said. “I really think there should be more involvement by the nursing profession at the local level of government to help protect us, the public and even the children more importantly.”
Judi Hillman from Utah Health Policy spoke about the delicate interface between federal and state health reform. Murphy spoke to students about various reasons for contacting legislators and how to speak to them effectively. Murphy provided handouts on “How a Bill Becomes a Law,” and the legislative seating rosters for students to use while they sat in the galleries to help identify their own legislators based on where the students currently reside.
“I feel it is important to open the eyes of my nursing students so they establish critical thinking skills and see the connection between health and education issues on the Hill in relationship to their new nursing profession,” Murphy said.
Students were informed about Utah’s first woman Speaker of the House, Rebecca Lockhart, who is also a registered nurse.
Students attended the floor time discussion of bills in both the House and the Senate Galleries. They were introduced, asked to stand and welcomed warmly as well as applauded.
Representative Marie Poulson and Senator Karen Morgan made gallery introductions. Both of which are Murphy’s Legislators in the Cottonwood Heights area. Both Morgan and Poulson are former educators who currently serve on education committees on Capitol Hill.
“It was my great pleasure to welcome and introduce the SLCC nursing students and their professor Donna Murphy. It is exciting to see their involvement in the political process,” Poulson said.
“It was wonderful to have Donna Murphy bring her nursing students to the Capitol this year during the 2011 legislative session to see their government at work. I was pleased to recognize them in the Gallery as they watched the Senate debate issues,” Morgan said. “Donna is one of the best nursing professors anywhere. Her enthusiasm for education and civic engagement is contagious, and her students are fortunate that she provided this opportunity for them.”
Mrs.Waddoups, wife of Senate President Waddoups and member of SLCC Board of Trustees, was also in attendance, and lent a warm greeting to SLCC nursing students.
Rep. Paul Ray, who also welcomed the nursing students to the Capitol, took a few students on a private tour of the House Floor and the Representative’s Lounge.
Rep. Patrice Arent joined up with Ray and informed students about their joint efforts to pass legislation with health care issues. Ray currently serves as the Chair on Health and Human Services Committee.
Murphy has ongoing relationships with legislators from her former position as a lobbyist for UNA, and with Government Relations Committee in 2005 before she started teaching at SLCC. She just finished her four-year elected position, 2007-2011, with Women’s State Legislative Council of Utah as Director of Health and Human Services Study Committee at the end of this legislative session.
“I feel so passionate about politics because I believe it is our civic responsibility to educate legislators in our area of expertise, so they make can make informed decisions when they are voting on bills which have the potential of becoming law,” Murphy said. “It’s important to establish working relationships with legislators because they do work so hard, especially during the session. I feel most legislators run for office because they want to make a difference in our community. Many issues on Capitol Hill are non-partisan and all sides need to work together for appropriate public policy.”
UNA is proud to collaborate with SLCC and plan to have this as an annual event with the possibility of providing blood pressure readings and glucometer checks on their next unified day in 2012 on Capitol Hill.
Murphy encourages other nursing programs and schools to implement their own respective Student Nurses Day at the Legislature. She also advises nurses to join UNA’s Government Relations Committee. The aim of Student Nurses Day at the Legislature is to facilitate in ongoing education for students as well as nurses about the political arena and the impact it has on healthcare and the nursing profession.