By Kevin Nash
Six School of Nursing students accompanied Dean Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, to Annapolis for the School’s annual Advocacy Day on March 11. Their goal was to deliver one central message to lawmakers — the health care of Marylanders depends on well-educated nurses.
Assisting Dean Kirschling in reinforcing the School of Nursing’s message were Doctor of Nursing Practice students Sonia Brown, MS ‘99, RN, ACNP-BC and Cheryl Harrow, MS ‘01, FNP-BC, RNC-LRN, IBCLC; Bachelor of Science in Nursing students Brian Hoffman and Natalie Colville; and Clinical Nurse Leader students Christopher Gawrych and Winnie Makawa. Each student was given the opportunity to shadow a legislator for the morning. Senators Thomas M. Middleton, District 28, Charles County; Paul G. Pinsky, District 22, Prince George’s County; and Katherine A. Klausmeier, District 8, Baltimore County; and Delegates Brian K. McHale, District 46, Baltimore City; Herbert H. McMillan, District 30, Anne Arundel County; and Melvin L. Stukes, District 44, Baltimore City, took time to meet with students.
Dean Kirschling reinforced the important topics to discuss with legislators before everyone officially began their day. She reminded students that although the nursing shortage has been reduced due to the economy and Baby Boomer nurses remaining in the workforce, they can’t be complacent in advocating for well-educated nurses.
“It is very important that legislators hear our message today. We want to provide high-quality health care. In order to do that, we need a well-educated nursing workforce,” Dean Kirschling said. “We are pleased to continue to produce well-educated nurses for Maryland, the region, and the world.”
Dean Kirschling also implored students to talk with legislators about helping to shoulder the cost of graduate-level education. Nursing students rely heavily on financial aid and scholarships to offset the cost of their education. The need for financial support for tuition is definitely something that Brown, a Jonas Scholar , can identify with and had no problem advocating for.
“Without the funds that I have received, I’d be in debt with student loans,” Brown said. “To be able to walk away after graduation with minimal debt is great. As a single mother with a school-aged child, it would have been a real struggle without the support of the Jonas Scholarship.”
Other items on Dean Kirschling’s agenda were gaining the continued support of the Maryland legislature for the Governor’s Wellmobile Program and the removal of barriers to practice for advance practice registered nurses (APRNs). APRNs are essential to meeting the health care needs of Marylanders, the operation of the Wellmobile, and other community initiatives that impact the health of the underinsured and underserved residents of Maryland.
Students joined their assigned legislator on the floor of the General Assembly where they heard discussion on speed cameras, medical marijuana, and other issues. Attendees left with a keener understanding of how our government works and the importance of advocating for the needs of improved health care.
“We have to be involved at all levels,” Brown said. “In order to get what we want, we have to be at the table where the discussions are taking place.”