DNP students participate in policymaking


SUMMARY: JMU's Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program created the Health Policy Institute (HPI), an initiative where students spend a week working directly with policymakers on Capitol Hill.

By: Daniel Vieth '15
Creative Services Student Writer

PHOTO: JMU nursing students in DC

At a time when the U.S. healthcare system is changing faster than ever, it is imperative for graduate nursing students to understand collaborative advocacy for policies that benefit patients, families and communities. Frequently health care professionals underestimate their ability to educate legislators on the value of patient-centered healthcare policies. JMU’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program addressed this by creating the Health Policy Institute (HPI), an initiative where students spend a week working directly with policymakers on Capitol Hill. Last August, five DNP students traveled to Washington D.C. to apply their knowledge to health policymaking, boost their confidence and skills working with legislators, and make a real difference in the proposed policies affecting patients and their profession.

During their time in Washington D.C., students spent a week at one of a variety of locations, including the office of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) or other public health policy associations. While there, they met with legislators, worked on policies and legislation such as Title VIII funding, wrote policy briefs to explain issues in healthcare and more. “The students were all working on real policy initiatives,” said Eaton. “They researched information, processed it critically, applied the information to each situation and evaluated how it went.”

Following the student's week visiting Capitol Hill, policymakers said they greatly enjoyed working with and learning about the roles of a DNP. “The policymakers quickly find that our students aren’t normal interns who will just get some coffee - they are already experienced nurse practitioners or nurse administrators,” said Eaton. “Our students can really hit the ground running when they start, and I think the policymakers really appreciated that.” 

The students add value to the nursing field by learning what the legislators, lobbyists and other policymakers do, and educating them about the role of a DNP. “It’s really learning the perspective of the policymaker’s roles and what they can bring to the table, as well as educating others on what nursing can bring to the table,” Eaton added. Additionally, HPI is a way for students to apply the knowledge they have learned about health policy and boost their comfort level working with real legislators and other policymakers. “The students don’t always start out having the confidence, but as DNP students they know the information,” said Eaton. “It’s great to see them get [to Capitol Hill], start working with the policymakers and realize that they really are experts who can make a difference.” 

PHOTO: JMU Nursing students in DC

JMU’s DNP program plans to continue to expand HPI every year. “This upcoming year we will have eight DNP students travel to Capitol Hill in May when congress is still in session,” said Eaton. “They will be able to go to committee sessions and other events happening on the Hill, follow through on more assignments, meet more legislators and directly work on some pieces of legislation for us.” By continuing this initiative, DNP students will engage directly with policymakers impacting their field. “Healthcare and the programs nurses work with are really on the line right now, so it’s more important than ever for nurses to be knowledgeable and advocate for what their practice and their patients really need,” Eaton added. “We really think the increased emphasis on experiential learning with the Health Policy Institute will make the students more comfortable, more politically astute and able to impact patient care.”   


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Published: Thursday, April 27, 2017

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 8, 2020

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