JMU School of Nursing Award from the AACN


SUMMARY: Efforts of advocacy have earned JMU's School of Nursing the Innovations in Professional Nursing Award from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

By: Trudy Horsting
Creative Services Student Writer

PHOTO: JMU Faculty receiving award

“We take an oath to serve our patients, to take care of them, to advocate for them and if we don’t speak up for injustices or problems then we are a part of the problem.” Julie Sanford, Director of JMU’s School of Nursing says. It is this sentiment that sparked extensive advocacy efforts within the program. Sanford calls the initiative The JMU Health Policy Collaborative: Advocacy in Action. Programs have been implemented at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels of the school in collaboration with JMU’s Department of Social Work and Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD). Sanford says, “The fact that we are interprofessional and that we collaborate to move everyone forward, to move our patients’ access to healthcare forward, I think it makes us stronger”. These combined efforts of advocacy have earned JMU’s School of Nursing the Innovations in Professional Nursing Award from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

The JMU nursing program has worked hard to implement health policy education through engaging experiences that go beyond traditional classroom instruction. The Health Policy Institute gives doctoral students the opportunity to spend an immersive health policy week in the office of a senator or with a national organization related to nursing. Students in the master’s program travel to the Virginia General Assembly and Washington D.C. to advocate for different health policy issues. Undergraduates participate in the annual Health Policy Summit established in 2013. One of the most notable accomplishments of the initiative, the summit engages undergrads from varying disciplines utilizing team based learning, and provides them the opportunity to see legislation in action. Sanford says that for students, “it’s the perfect example of civic engagement and discourse.” At the beginning of the summit, the political astuteness of participants is measured, and there are statistically significant improvements upon its completion. This achievement, from one, four-hour session, displays the effectiveness of hearing different perspectives and engaging in real-world application.

Sanford understands the apprehension that students frequently have toward health policy advocacy, and has made negating this apprehension a main goal of the initiative. She says their primary message is “Don’t be afraid of it. You don’t have to know everything about health policy to interact and engage with the policymaking process.” Patra Reed, a recent graduate of the DNP program, is a perfect example of how effective the JMU advocacy initiatives have been in achieving this goal. Reed participated in the Health Policy Institute in Washington D.C., spending an eye-opening week in Senator Tim Kaine’s office. She says, “This was an opportunity I knew I had to take to expand my knowledge and my comfort with health policy advocacy. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of the whole DNP program.”

Reed says, “Before I participated in the program, my Professors told me- and I’ll never forget, ‘you are the expert here. Don’t be nervous. You’re going into their world yes, but you are the expert in healthcare. You’re going to go in and teach them what you know.’” Now, as the Sentara Blue Ridge Regional Director for Integrated Care Management, Reed passes on that advice. She says, “The biggest thing I got out of the collaborative was how much political leaders depend on healthcare workers being involved in the policymaking process. It shed light on why it’s important for us to advocate for what our patients need.”

Sanford says, “It takes all of us to get the best outcomes for our patients and for healthcare. One person can have impact, but you have so much more impact together.” The school’s initiative has benefited from collaboration with faculty members, legislators, and the social work and CSD departments. Ultimately, it’s the passion of everyone involved that has earned the JMU School of Nursing this prestigious national award. Sanford says, “This is civic engagement- transforming, educating, and enlightening our students to be active citizens in the world which is right along with our mission for the university.”

Back to Top

Published: Thursday, March 2, 2017

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Related Articles