I am excited to graduate in May from the University of Florida College of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program and become a primary health care provider, but my experience in the DNP residency with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in Washington, D.C., taught me that my responsibility goes beyond the provider’s office. I am better prepared now to inform patients about the policy issues surrounding their care, and I have the knowledge, ability and power to advocate for improvements in health, health care and my profession.
What makes the DNP residency so unique and exciting is that students can create their own experiences tailored to their interests and career goals by meeting the residency objectives. It is all part of the college’s teaching mission that is centered on inspiring graduates “who deliver excellent personalized nursing care, provide leadership to the profession, and advance nursing science.”
My College of Nursing mentor, Associate Professor Robert Lucero, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, encouraged me to think of how this residency would benefit me and my career in the future. As a mentor, he helped me to think outside of the box and brainstorm ideas beyond the clinical setting. I wanted to learn more about the issues surrounding the profession of nurse practitioners nationwide and get an understanding of how nurse practitioners fit into the big picture of health care. I applied for the Government Affairs Internship with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, or AACN. The process involved faculty recommendations and multiple interviews, so I was ecstatic when I landed the position.
I spent the fall 2018 semester working at the AACN Government Affairs and Policy, or GAP, department. I worked with the GAP team tracking current policy and legislation proposals and reaching out to legislators on behalf of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, or APRNs. I attended meetings with congressmen and the surgeon general, public hearings, summits, post-election briefings, media receptions and many more events. I learned about current issues in health care, efforts to improve health care through policy and legislation, and, most importantly, the role of APRNs in leading health care improvements. I prepared draft letters and comments to legislators from the AACN on behalf of the nursing profession to address issues such as health provider shortages, barriers to health care access, the opioid epidemic and APRN scope-of-practice restrictions.
I gained a better appreciation for the fact that the role of APRNs goes beyond providing clinical care and health recommendations. APRNs — and all nurses — have the ability and responsibility to lead advocacy efforts and influence policy toward improving our nation’s health care and public health. And my internship at AACN gave me the knowledge and the tools to do that. I have a broader perspective on the issues surrounding my profession and a deeper appreciation of the value of nursing and advanced practice nursing. I left the doors of the AACN empowered to advocate on behalf of my patients and my profession and to influence change and improvements in health legislation.