Alumni Empower Students to Develop Nursing Voice
Jun 3, 2014 2:23 PM
Early in her nursing career, University of Utah College of Nursing alumna Eileen Engh, MS (BSN ’82) attended a brown bag seminar on the profession of nursing. The presenter offered powerful advice about the opportunity nurses have to effect change: “If I have any advice to share with you, nurses, it is to learn to organize your ideas as a group so you can speak in one voice.” Now Engh, a manager of nursing research at Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC), and fellow Washington, DC based alumna Ansilene Ozberkmen (BSN ‘57), are striving to pay the concept forward by imparting the wisdom onto College of Nursing students. Last month they hosted a group of nursing students in Washington DC for the second annual DC Experience, an intense course on improving communication, reaching out to lawmakers, and affecting meaningful change when it comes to health care policy in the United States. Put together for nursing students attending the Hinckley Institute’s Capital Encounter, the program helps future nurses learn the basics of the elevator pitch, and the ins and outs of talking policy.
“The decision makers often need what nurses readily know,” says Engh. “It’s never too early to empower nursing students to use the power of what they know, and to prepare them with skills to communicate with people that are not nurses.”
The student nurses were able to put their skills to use during their trip, meeting with Congressman Rob Bishop (R, Utah, 1st district) and Congressman Chris Stewart (R, Utah, 2nd district). “I feel more educated in how public policy is formed, funded, and negotiated,” says nursing student Melissa Alm, one of the 2014 participants, “I can see myself now becoming a problem solver, not just a problem identifier who doesn't know where to start affecting change.”
For Ozberkmen, the DC Experience is also about furthering the legacy of her College of Nursing classmate and longtime friend Lillian Brown (Williams), who was a leader in nursing administration at CNMC before she passed away from cancer. “One thing Lillian and I realized when we first arrived in Washington, DC back in 1957 was how well our education at the College of Nursing had prepared us for so many things we ultimately encountered in the clinical setting,” says Ozberkmen. “We also grew to appreciate the value of academic progression. After Lillian earned her master’s degree in hospital administration she said to me, ‘Now all the things I’ve complained about I can actually do something about.’ On some level, with this project, I want to help students embrace that concept early on.”
What was a grassroots effort in year one (Ozberkmen donated funds to help pay for the students’ hotel accommodations and divided the meal expenses up with Engh) is now supported by a $4,000 gift from donors Nancy and Nick Ward. The funding not only makes the program sustainable, it also helps expand its reach to more students, which will in turn help advance a secondary goal Engh has with the program. “I want to help students learn to see the benefit of connecting with alumni over the span of a career,” she says. “In school, you sometimes think it is just about finishing. It is so important to learn how to tap into those resources before you actually need them.”
Katie SchrierKatie Schrier is the former Communications Manager for the College of Nursing.