I recently reflected on the amazing journey I’ve experienced throughout my nursing career. One of the many highlights was my experience as a participant in the Nurse in Washington Internship (NIWI) program sponsored by the Nursing Organizations Alliance.
Each year, nurses from many different areas of practice, education levels and from throughout the country converge in Washington, D.C. to learn about advocacy and the legislative process. Initiatives related to nursing and healthcare are a key component of the discussions. The pinnacle of the experience is the opportunity to interact with the legislators from your own state in one-on-one discussions.
I spoke with my legislators about Title VIII funding and the opioid crisis. I have to admit, I was quite nervous at the thought of speaking to these legislators; after all I thought, I’m just one person with no real clout and nothing to offer that the legislators would be interested in. I confess I was also a bit cynical. My news feeds are filled daily with negativity and identity politics that convinced me that they wouldn’t even care about the topics of importance to me. How wrong I was! I shared stories from my own experience regarding how each of these topics impacted my practice and me personally. Both the senator and the representative were very interested in my perspective and we had wonderful conversations. I left those meetings feeling as if I had made a positive impact.
There’s also something special about being in the nation’s capital. It has so much history and so many wonderful sites to visit. One of my favorite places was the Vietnam Women’s Memorial which depicts the dedication, compassion, and fortitude of the women serving in the war, many of whom were nurses. These women had important roles in the conflict and met the challenges they faced head on.
Nurses today also have important roles in the many challenges we encounter including workplace violence, staffing issues, gender inequality, social inequity, and the high cost of medications which places our patients in situations in which they have to choose between feeding themselves or their family and purchasing medications needed to survive. We can choose to share our stories and use our collaborative voices to tackle the many issues we face.
Participation in NIWI was truly a wonderful experience and the knowledge I gained as a result of the internship is empowering. I am prepared to continue to advocate on issues that are important to me as a nurse and a citizen. I know that grass roots efforts can make a big difference and I remain involved, using the tools learned to make my voice heard.
Students and registered nurses are eligible to participate in NIWI. AMSN is proud to sponsor a member’s attendance at NIWI each year. The application for a scholarship will open soon. Please look for an announcement and consider how this experience can impact your own professional journey. It may very well lead you to places and opportunities you have never imagined.
Visit here to find out more about NIWI: https://www.amsn.org/practice-resources/legislative/nurse-washington-int...