Nursing students meet with legislators to discuss impact of laws

Mount Mercy University students, faculty and alumni spent Wednesday afternoon at the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, meeting with law makers to discuss recent health care legislation and its impact on nurses.

The 2016 Iowa Nurses Association (INA) Legislative Day event attracted 260 attendees from the INA and Iowa nursing colleges, including 52 attendees from Mount Mercy University. Attendees spent the morning preparing for the meeting, learning the importance of harnessing nursing’s political power and how to approach legislators with a simple, clear message.

“Health policies and laws are made every day, and they affect the whole health care system, including nurses,” said Dr. Sharon Guthrie, assistant professor of nursing at Mount Mercy and the trip's yearly organizer. “Some laws are specific to nursing, but some are in the general sense of the health care system, and some laws — such as the tobacco, tanning bed and fireworks laws — affect the public, but indirectly come back to health care because of injuries.”

Attendees learned basic lobbying skills from Janet Haebler, senior associate director for State Government Affairs with the American Nurses Association, and Bob Mulqueen, INA Lobbyist from the Capitol Group, among others with lobbying experience. They were also given the opportunity to work on elevator speeches, a short message that communicates who you are, what you're looking to accomplish and how your opinions can benefit the public.

Nursing Department visits Iowa State Capitol

While at the capitol, students were encouraged to request a meeting with a legislator and interact with lobbyists, before ultimately meeting with senators Liz Mathis (D-Robins), Bob Dvorsky (D-Coralville), Brian Schoenjahn (D-Arlington), Dan Zumbach (R-Ryan) and Representative Brian Best (R-Glidden).

“We want students to understand the political process of how policy is developed and made, and that it can take years to finish,” Guthrie said. “We also want students to feel comfortable interacting with legislators. I think the public is often intimidated because they’re not legislators, but what I consistently tell students is ‘You’re a nurse. You know what you know, and they don’t know what you know.’”

“I had such a great learning experience,” nursing student Angie Wardenburg said in addition to being thankful for Guthrie’s work on the trip. “I hope to return again next year.”

Guthrie has taken similar trips with students for several years, with 2016 trip being the largest group, but she would like to see alumni become more involved in the crucial legislative process.

“Nurses make up a significant percent of health care professionals, and it is essential that nurses speak up and share concerns with legislators,” Guthrie said. “Nurses are the voice of nursing. There are 55,958 nurses — RNs and LPNs — in Iowa, and the 2017 INA Legislative Day needs the voice of all nurses.”

For more information, contact Sharon Guthrie at sguthrie@mtmercy.edu or 319-363-1323 ext.1538.

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