ANNA Member Elizabeth Wallace Reflects on 2018 Nurse In Washington Internship Program

ANNA member Elizabeth Wallace participated in the Nurse in Washington Internship (NIWI) program in Washington, DC, March 11-13, 2018. Sponsored by the Nursing Organizations Alliance, the NIWI program provides nurses the opportunity to learn how to influence health care through the legislative and regulatory processes. Participants learn from health policy experts and government officials, network with other nurses, and visit members of Congress. Read below to learn more about her NIWI experience.

Note: Elizabeth’s attendance was funded by a grant administered through the ANNA awards, scholarship, and grant program and sponsored by Nursing Economic$, the Journal for Health Care Leaders. Click here to find out how you can apply for a grant to attend a future NIWI program.

PhotoI am enormously grateful to ANNA for the resources provided to me through the Nurse In Washington Internship grant. The opportunity to learn and experience the power of advocacy hands-on has been transformative for me. 

The preparation seminars on advocacy that occurred prior to our Capitol Hill visits were interactive and educational. The topics covered ranged from talks by professional advocates regarding their personal career trajectories to how to craft a compelling “ask” using the mechanism of storytelling. For me, the value of the seminar portion was twofold: not only did it greatly increase my knowledge level of systems and processes; it also gave me the confidence to dive into the role of nurse advocate. There were multiple opportunities to practice the art of advocacy through role-play, and the networking opportunities with other nurses generated strength in numbers.

The Nursing Community is a coalition of 58 national nursing associations committed to advocating for healthcare issues. Experiencing the depth and variety that differently credentialed nurses from all specialty practices brought to Capitol Hill demonstrated for me how significant my own contribution is. I am an expert nurse witness to the health of a population: the ESRD patients on dialysis. My knowledge and experience is a pivotal presence in a political environment where impactful decisions are made regarding the allocation of health care resources.

On March 13, 2018, I had four meetings with legislative assistants to two Georgia Representatives and both Georgia Senators. Another NIWI participant from the state of Georgia joined me for several of the meetings. We had a streamlined agenda of three “asks,” one of which was to increase investments to nursing education and research by increasing allocations to the Nursing Workforce Development Programs (Title VIII) and the National Institute of Nursing Research ( 9% and 5%, respectively). The deadline for signing on to the Title VIII was actually that day, so we were compelled to share our message with urgency.

Later, I came to realize just how important it was to make our unified voice heard, as Congress did in fact pass this legislation in the Consolidated Appropriations Act. Legislative staffers are very hard-working, and they each vocalized appreciation that we brought that deadline to their attention.

One thing that NIWI has brought to my attention is the importance of cultivating relationships over time with my Georgia Representatives and Senators. Because ANNA is such a strong national organization and is rich with advocacy tools, I have been able to engage successfully at the national level. However, one of the ways that I intend to increase my advocacy over the coming year is to cultivate relationships and activities locally on the state level. I also plan to invite my nephrology nursing colleagues at my workplace of Emory Healthcare Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, GA, to join me in increasing activities of advocacy on behalf of the ESRD community, utilizing some of the tools that ANNA provides to its nurse members. I am committed to increasing the body of evidence available, which will support the ongoing process of engaging nurses at the bedside in advocacy development. I firmly believe there is a direct link between advocacy and outcomes both for patients and nurses, and I hope to be a contributor to the evidence of such outcomes.

Elizabeth Wallace, BA, RN
NIWI Grant Recipient
Dogwood Chapter #224