Students Win Health Policy Prize and Pay it Forward

February 5, 2016

Four Columbia Nursing students and one faculty member pursuing a DNP degree at another school won the 2015 Grassroots Prize from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). The $1500 prize money was awarded to students who attended the organization’s annual policy summit and submitted a project designed to engage people in policy and advocacy.

The winning Columbia Nursing group was comprised of PhD student Don Boyd; Instructor Heidi Hahn-Schroeder (who is pursuing a DNP at another school); Family Nurse Practitioner Program students Thania Lee and Sarah Rudolph; and ETP graduate Talia Borgo. Their winning project covered key nursing policies that the group examined during the summit. Those issues included increasing funding for nursing education and research, recognizing advance practice nurses as full practice providers within the VA system, and Medicare reimbursement for home health care provided by nurse practitioners.

In March, the group traveled to Washington, DC for the three-day summit. Four of the students received partial funding through Columbia Nursing’s Center for Health Policy. The group presented their project during a summer session of the required master’s course “Health and Social Policy in the Context of Practice.”

The AACN provided advocacy training sessions on bills the organization seeks to advance such as Title VIII- Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2713). This proposed legislation bolsters nursing education by proving grants to nursing schools and sponsors loan repayment programs for nursing students, among other initiatives. After receiving advocacy training, participants spoke about these bills with legislative aides and chiefs of staff for New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Don Boyd discussed how outcomes of bills like Title VIII directly impact him and the faculty members he works with who receive funding from the National Institute for Nursing Research (NINR).

Boyd graduated from Columbia Nursing’s Nurse Anesthesia program in 2006. He served as a Teaching Assistant for the Health Policy class two years ago.  His dissertation research focuses on the organizational climate of nurse anesthetists and its impact on job satisfaction and intent to leave a job.

“Policy directly impacts our work as nurses so it’s critical that nurses help drive policy,” said Boyd.

He hopes that future student attendees will make similar connections between policy and practice.

To that end, Boyd and the other members of the group decided to donate their prize money to fund future Columbia Nursing students’ attendance at the AACN student policy summit or similar policy conferences.

“Changing policy takes a village,” said Boyd. “I hope that sharing our experiences from the summit plants a seed in students’ minds that policy and advocacy are dynamic, impactful processes that must be shared.If each of us get three people involved in policy and advocacy work, and those people then  involve three more peers, we start to grow a grassroots effort.”