Future Nurses from Pace University Lobby Policymakers on Healthcare Issues

Nurses often speak out on behalf of their patients to ensure they get the best possible care, improving the lives of many people, one at a time. But nurses are also a powerful group when they get together to advocate on the local and national level to improve the healthcare system for all of us.

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Contacts: Cara Cea, 914-773-3312 or ccea@pace.edu; Sharon Lewis, 914-773-3973 or slewis2@pace.edu

FUTURE NURSES FROM PACE UNIVERSITY LOBBY POLICYMAKERS ON HEALTHCARE ISSUES

Urge State Legislature to support nursing education, safe staffing ratios, punish violence against nurses, and require safe patient handling policies. Photos available upon request.

Albany, New York, April 21, 2010 — Nurses often speak out on behalf of their patients to ensure they get the best possible care, improving the lives of many people, one at a time. But nurses are also a powerful group when they get together to advocate on the local and national level to improve the healthcare system for all of us.

That was an important lesson that senior Amanda Schultz, along with about 50 other students from Pace University’s Lienhard School of Nursing, learned yesterday, when they attended the New York State Nurses Association‘s (NYSNA) annual Lobby Day at the State Capitol in Albany, taking part in public policy discussions with legislators and their aides. Lienhard students had the opportunity to meet with Assembly Members Robert Castelli and Deborah Glick, and aides for Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, Senators Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Suzi Oppenheimer, and Daniel Squadron.

The students talked with their legislators about a range of issues, from violence against nurses to safe staffing ratios to funding for nursing education programs. Schultz was particularly concerned about the issue of safety in the workplace. She said, “Statistics are stunning. According to the Department of Justice, nearly 500,000 nurses per year are victims of violent crimes in the workplace. When I am a full time nurse next year, the last thing I want to have to deal with is a violent patient. The proper protections need to be in place to keep nurses safe.”

NYSNA has written a memo of support for a bill that would add attacks on RNs or LPNs to the same class of assault as attacks on police officers, firefighters, and EMTs. The memo says that the frequency with which nurses are assaulted has led to an accepted and inappropriate belief that violence is to be expected in a healthcare environment and should be considered “part of the job.”

Lienhard School of Nursing students were accompanied to Albany by two of their faculty — Assistant Professor Andrea Sonenberg, NP, CNM, DNSc, and Clinical Instructor Ann Marie Bova, MSN, RN.

In addition to addressing violence against nurses, the students and their faculty are also advocating for safe staffing ratios, which result in safer care with improved patient outcomes, an improved workplace environment that will attract and retain nurses, and higher job satisfaction for nurses.

“I support the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act,” said Sonenberg, who has been practicing for 24 years. “In my experience, an appropriate staff assignment, taking into account not just number of patients but acuity as well, results in better patient outcomes and satisfaction. Additionally, nurse satisfaction and retention are more likely to be optimal. If we don’t address this issue, the nursing shortage will only become more acute and a risk to patient safety.”

Nurses and future nurses are also advocating on measures affecting education of nurses. Proposed legislation would require registered professional nurses to attain bachelor’s degrees in nursing within ten years of their initial licensure. The legislation is modeled after an education requirement for public school teachers in New York State to earn a master’s within five years of initial certification. Bachelor’s degree programs provide additional emphasis on key areas of nursing theory and the use of evidence-based practice in nursing, according to NYSNA. Furthermore, BSN students are exposed to settings and areas of practice that are not generally part of associate degree programs, such as public health, home care, and various outpatient settings. The BSN curriculum also provides students with leadership skills that help them supervise and monitor dependent practitioners. According to Dean and Professor Harriet R. Feldman, PhD, RN, FAAN, “Nurses are lifelong learners, and every nurse should have a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. Although an associate degree provides a beginning foundation for practice, the evidence supports that there are fewer patient errors in health care environments that have a predominance of BS nurses, and patient safety is a high priority in patient care.”

According to Raymond Ng, president of Student Nurses at Pace (SNAP) on the New York City campus of Pace University, “Lobby Day really opened my eyes to how nurses can influence policy to improve care. I feel so empowered and energized from this experience; we talked to our policymakers, and they really listened.”

This Lobby Day event was organized by NYSNA, and approximately 2,200 nurses and future nurses attended. Professor Sonenberg said, “Advocacy is a critical process when it comes to improving our health care system, and as both current and future nurses, we are uniquely positioned to inform legislators on critical issues affecting the nation’s health and have a professional responsibility to make our voices heard.” Bova agreed saying, “This is an excellent learning experience for both the legislators and the students, and the result will be a more educated electorate and healthcare improvements.”

About Pace University: For 104 years Pace University has produced thinking professionals by providing high quality education for the professions on a firm base of liberal learning amid the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, New York, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Lubin School of Business, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Lienhard School of Nursing, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

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