ANNA Member Sheila Deziel Reflects on 2019 Nurse In Washington Internship Program

ANNA member Sheila Deziel participated in the Nurse in Washington Internship (NIWI) program in Washington, DC, March 24-26, 2019. 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: Sheila’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 represented ANNA at the 2019 Nurse in Washington Internship in Washington, DC. Wow, what an amazing experience! I had previously attended NIWI over 10 years ago, and this time was such a rewarding experience. The workshop I previously attended was held just prior to the Institute of Medicine’s release of the report on the Future of Nursing, and the entire focus was on attaining advanced practice degrees. The attendees at that time were more focused on achieving an advanced degree. This year was a complete shift into the concerns that nursing currently has, such as the pending shortage as we age, workplace violence, and how opioids are being denied to some patients who truly need them. Another topic was the need for more faculty positions that are full-time so nurses will consider this important role. Most importantly and loudly stated was respect for the most important role: the bedside nurse.

To hear 67 colleagues from 25 nursing specialties describe their concerns for our profession was enlightening. I do not think I really grasped the number of violent episodes a nurse might encounter daily. An emergency room nurse said she counted the number of times in a shift she was called “bitch”– 8, the number of times she was spat at – 3, the number of physical shoves or slaps – 4, and this does not include the verbal abuse. She also described the process she must go through as the police prosecute the more serious incidents.

It was heart-wrenching to hear the oncology and pain management nurses describe the hoops they must jump through to get their patients pain medicine now that the opioid crisis has caused pain medications to be so highly regulated. Many dying patients are denied adequate pain control.

We all agreed that nurses keep patients safe from the time they enter care to the time they leave it. For those of us in nephrology, this continues when the patients are not with us. In order to keep a patient safe, a nurse must be highly trained to know when orders are appropriate and how to execute them. One nurse described her daughter’s hospitalization and subsequent death, and how the nurse did not know how to ask for help when her daughter was failing and how to escalate the care to a higher level. If we do not continue to promote a high-quality education for our frontline nurses, issues like this will continue. We also need to consider that we cannot continue without an adequate supply of new and younger nurses who can do this incredibly rewarding but physical job.

The “asks” on Capitol Hill were easy to convey: reauthorization for Title VIII to promote the nursing workforce and for nursing-specific research under the National Institute of Nursing Research. Unfortunately, the administration’s budget cut this funding by 67% so it is imperative that we advocate for nursing. During my Capitol Hill visits with Arizona Representatives Biggs and Stanton, they were eager to hear how this affected nursing. My Senator is new to the Hill, having replaced Senator McCain, so she is just getting started but did support nursing being a part of bills regarding opioids while she was in Congress. I made a few follow-ups with my Representatives, and I hope to form a relationship with their offices both in Washington, DC, as well as in their home districts as I gather the information they requested.

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!

Sheila Deziel, MSN, RN, CNN, FNKF
NIWI Grant Recipient
Desert Vista Chapter #501