Officer Marty off to rock retirement

Officer Robert Marty

Officer Robert Marty (Photo courtesy: Kelly Fleming)

Officer Robert (Bob) Marty retired this month from Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College after a career path that had taken him from Ted Nugent to BJC.

Marty’s love of music led him to his first career as a professional musician, and his talent gave him an opportunity to play and tour with musicians including Ted Nugent.

Marty then served as a police officer throughout the St. Louis area for 10 years, before working as a special investigator at a local university. His skills expanded even further when he began working in management for a local hospital.

Another career opportunity began when Marty started working part-time at BJC. Eventually, the part-time job became full-time — and after 17 years with BJC, five of those years spent leading the security efforts at the college, Marty retired from his post.

During Marty’s retirement celebration, Michael Bleich, PhD, RN, dean of Goldfarb School of Nursing and president of Barnes-Jewish College, presented the first-ever “Key to the College” to Marty, telling Marty that he’s welcome to drop in and check on the college at any time.

Marty’s sharp eye, kind smile and welcoming wave will be missed by the students, faculty, staff and guests who walk into the college, but he’s leaving behind a legacy of excellence that was showcased through his work ethic and positive attitude every day he was on duty.

Remembering Shirley W. Cohen

Shirley Cohen Memorial

Shirley W. Cohen

A memorial service for Shirley W. Cohen, who passed away on March 21 at the age of 89, will be held on Friday, May 1 at 2 p.m. at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College (4483 Duncan Ave., 63110). The community is invited to join the memorial that will honor Mrs. Cohen and remember her for all that she contributed to nursing education and the nursing profession.

Mrs. Cohen was dedicated to volunteering for a host of causes throughout her lifetime. She was one of the first women to serve on the board of directors at Jewish Hospital, and was president of the Jewish Hospital Auxiliary. Mrs. Cohen’s tireless work for nursing education was instrumental in the expansion of the Jewish Hospital School of Nursing into a full-fledged college in 1989. As a founding member of the board of directors of The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, she chaired the board of Jewish Hospital College of Nursing, now known as the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College.

If you would like to partake in the processional taking place before the memorial, please arrive at the college by 1:15 pm with a flashlight and wearing a white top.

Complimentary valet parking at the college for the memorial will be available. A reception will take place immediately following the service. Questions should be directed to Dr. June Cowell-Oates at 314-454-8694 or JCowell-Oates@bjc.org.

Donations can be made to the Shirley W. Cohen Scholarship Endowment Fund at the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, 1011 Highlands Plaza Drive West, Suite 140, St. Louis, MO 63110-1337.  The phone number is 314-286-0600, and email address is givingbarnesjewish@bjc.org. For more information go to www.barnesjewish.org/online-giving-form.

Reflections on African-American Nursing History Conference

Students from Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College attended the 8th Annual African-American Nursing History Conference on February 25, 2015. Hosted by the College of Nursing at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the conference focused on health disparities, promoting community wellness and identifying evidence-based research that affects changes in vulnerable populations throughout the community.

Goldfarb was a proud sponsor of the conference, and was excited to have so many students attend. Below are just a few reflections on, and photos from, the conference that our students shared.

AANH Conference - 2015“I am grateful I was granted the opportunity to attend the African-American Nursing History Conference. The speakers were outstanding!!!  Their background, knowledge, and experiences were a breath of fresh air. I left the conference feeling encouraged and motivated – wanting to provide education, care, and support to my community.”  – Andrea S.

AANH Conference - 2015“What an eye opening experience! The African-American Nursing History Conference increased my awareness about a host of health disparities among the African-American community. As a nurse, I feel it is extremely important to keep abreast of what issues are present within the community, and how I can contribute to correcting the problem. The speaker, Dr. Melvin Blanchard, gave a wonderful presentation. He began by explaining some of the causes for issues prevalent in the African-American community, such as heart failure, cancer, diabetes, etc.   In his words, “the root of the issue” is the onset of many harmful behaviors. He followed by what those habits lead to and finally ending with the final result. He called this “Roots, Trunk and Fruits.” I learned that by incorporating small, healthy steps into everyday life one can reverse the negative effects on their health and have a huge impact on future wellness.  It was such a wonderful experience; I hope that I can have the opportunity to go in the upcoming years.” – Ashley T.

AANH Conference - 2015“After attending the AAHN Conference, I was proud that I chose a career field that I can contribute to society in a positive way. It was such an honor to be in the presence of nurses who have many experiences in the field. The keynote speakers brought to light the issues that we as nurses have to be active advocates for in our communities and for our patients.” – Timira M.

AANH Conference - 2015“The conference was truly a pleasure to attend, packed with informative guest speakers and opportunity to network with others in the field of nursing and public health. The keynote speaker of the morning, Dr. Melvin Blanchard, was AWESOME, enlightening and kept everyone engaged in the topic, “Ask Not What Our Healthcare System Can Do For Us; Ask What We Can Do For Our Health.” His presentation was a reality check on where healthcare is headed in this country and how it affects us as a WHOLE! The breakout sessions which I attended were just as enlightening, and the groups of speakers towards the end of the day were just as impactful! It was an action packed day full of engaging speakers with tons of beneficial information that even brought us to laughter at times…which we learned was healthy & helps us burn additional calories! I’ll encourage my cohorts to attend next year’s conference in hopes of developing our cultural competence as we enter the practice of nursing, because we all serve the same patients and the conference addresses the concerns within OUR community!  – Melanie G.

Homecoming 2014: Our Time in History

BJH19605_StandaloneThe Barnes-Jewish College Alumni Association invites all alumni and students to the Our Time in History homecoming celebration on Friday, October 10 from 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. The daylong celebration will take place at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College Duncan Campus site located at 4483 Duncan Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110.

We ask everyone who plans to attend homecoming to RSVP by October 1.

Homecoming Schedule of Events

8:30 a.m. – Lobby
Registration Opens

9 a.m. – Lobby and Plaza Auditorium
Memorial Celebration Breakfast
Begin the day with a memorial breakfast to celebrate members of the nursing school community we have lost. (Please email JCowell-Oates@bjc.org to share names of fellow classmates, faculty and/or staff members that you would like added to the memorial.)

10 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Lobby
Service Project
In celebration of St. Louis’ 250th birthday and Goldfarb’s history of community involvement, we are committed to helping reach The United Way of Greater St. Louis and stl250 goal of recruiting over 250,000 volunteers for service projects in 2014. Goldfarb will host an on-site service project open to all attendees.

10:30 – 11 a.m. – Plaza Auditorium
State of the College
Michael Bleich, PhD, RN, FAAN, president and Maxine Clark and Bob Fox dean at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College, to update attendees on the state of the college.

11 – 11:30 a.m. – Plaza Auditorium
Research Department Update
Jean Davis, PhD, RN, Paul J. McKee senior associate dean for research and PhD program director at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College, to update attendees on the research department developments.

12 p.m. – Lobby/Commons
Lunch
Enjoy lunch with fellow attendees.

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. – Plaza Auditorium
Nursing Humorist
Be entertained by the lighter side of nursing with comedian Patty Wooten, RN.

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. – Plaza Auditorium
Distinguished Alumni Awards
The Barnes-Jewish College Alumni Association is set to present the 2014 distinguished alumni award to Barbara Riegel, DNSc, RN, FAAN, FAHA and Marlene Rosenkoetter, PhD, RN, FAAN for their contributions to the advancement of the nursing profession.

3:30 p.m. – Lobby
A Look Back in History
See artifacts from throughout our history, including from a time capsule found in the old Jewish Hospital School of Nursing building.

4 – 6:30 p.m. – Lobby/Commons
Our Time in History Homecoming Celebration
Join students, alumni, faculty and staff for a homecoming celebration with food, fun and dancing.

*The event agenda is subject to change

To RSVP, please fill out the 2014 Homecoming RSVP form by October 1. For additional information, please contact June Cowell-Oates, director of alumni affairs and program officer, at JCowell-Oates@bjc.org.

Goldfarb School of Nursing installs three new leaders

By Joyce Romine

Recently installed Goldfarb School of Nursing chairs include, from left, Jean Davis, PhD, RN, Paul J. McKee Jr. Senior Associate Dean for Research; Gretchen Drinkard, PhD, RN, CNE, Jack Taylor Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; and Gail Rea, PhD, RN, CNE, Barnes-Jewish Hospital Endowed Chair for Advanced Nursing. | Photo by Tim Parker

Recently installed Goldfarb School of Nursing chairs include, from left, Jean Davis, PhD, RN, Paul J. McKee Jr. Senior Associate Dean for Research; Gretchen Drinkard, PhD, RN, CNE, Jack Taylor Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; and Gail Rea, PhD, RN, CNE, Barnes-Jewish Hospital Endowed Chair for Advanced Nursing. | Photo by Tim Parker

Three nurses have recently been installed in endowed chairs at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College. The new chairs are:

– Jean Davis, PhD, RN, Paul J. McKee Jr. Senior Associate Dean for Research
– Gretchen Drinkard, PhD, RN, CNE, Jack Taylor Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
– Gail Rea, PhD, RN, CNE, Barnes-Jewish Hospital Endowed Chair for Advanced Nursing

“Through these endowments, our generous donors to The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital have made an extraordinary investment in the Goldfarb School of Nursing,” says Michael Bleich, PhD, RN, Maxine Clark and Bob Fox Dean and Professor, and president of Barnes-Jewish College and Goldfarb School of Nursing. “We deeply appreciate their support that gives us the opportunity to recruit and retain top academic and research talent to serve the college and the community in a rapidly changing environment.

“The future of health care depends on our ability to bring the best and brightest into the health professions, particularly nurses,” Bleich adds. “The leadership positions at Goldfarb, expressed through these endowed chairs, will be the driving force behind attracting and educating the best students.”

The Barnes-Jewish Hospital Endowed Chair for Advanced Nursing is a newly created clinical endowed chair. Dr. Rea is the first to hold the chair.

“With breadth and depth of knowledge, each of the newly appointed chairs brings specific strengths in that they all have a solid commitment to making the next generation of nurses the best they can be,” Bleich says. “Dr. Davis has deep expertise in nursing science and will lead the college to exponential growth in research. Dr. Drinkard has extensive experience as both a nurse practitioner and a nurse educator to lead the academic enterprise. And Dr. Rea was a foremost leader in promoting evidence-based nursing practice, bridging science and practice. Together, they will play a significant role in leading nursing care into the future to benefit all patients.”

Retiree leaves legacy of successful nurses

by Chris Quirk

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Karen Bess

In a venerable nursing and teaching career spanning 48 years, there’s little that Karen Bess hasn’t seen, sometimes more than once. 

“It’s interesting when something from the past — like the concept of group testing that we did in the 70s, for instance — comes back into the curriculum as it has recently, although in a different way,” Bess says. 

Bess will retire from Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College April 30. 

After receiving her diploma from the former Jewish Hospital School of Nursing in 1967 and taking the two-day paper-and-pencil Missouri State Board of Nursing exam for her registered nurse license, she began her career at the former Jewish Hospital as a staff nurse on the obstetrical unit. Over the next eight years, Bess worked there as nurse, head nurse and administrator, earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Saint Louis University on a full scholarship. She began her teaching career in 1974 at Jewish Hospital School of Nursing. 

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Karen Millican (Bess) in 1967

Though apprehensive at first, Bess warmed to teaching almost immediately. “My parents were both teachers, but I didn’t think I wanted to do it,” she says. “It was that era where lots of people didn’t like teachers as it wasn’t very cool, but once I started, I loved it. It was exciting.” 

As an instructor, and later assistant professor, Bess taught obstetrical and women’s health courses for 40 years. 

Throughout Bess’ teaching career, she often held concurrent clinical appointments and continued her education with a master’s degree in education and later, a master’s degree in nursing. Bess credits the education degree with helping her to expand the breadth of her work in the classroom. “We learned a great deal about the theories of education,” she says. “The instruction in curriculum development was also useful in terms of putting together courses and syllabi, preparing exams and clarifying objectives.” 

Bess’ students took advantage of her vast knowledge of nursing and teaching skills over the years. Mary Kay Michael, a former student who now works as a nurse in the special care nursery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, recalls the supportive aspects of Bess’ teaching style. “She was always very kind and caring, willing to help you when you needed it, and ready to listen at any time,” Michael says. 

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Karen Millican (Bess) talks with fellow nursing students at the former Jewish Hospital School of Nursing in 1967. | Courtesy photo

Bess says she worked to make students feel comfortable. “Many of them don’t have a lot of experience with infants,” she says. “It’s important for them to see what it’s like doing family-centered care.” 

The school will miss the way Bess taught and treated her students, her colleagues say. “I’ve had the privilege of knowing Karen for the past nine years,” says Gail Rea, Goldfarb associate dean of undergraduate programs. “Karen’s desire is that every student be successful. She takes interest in the students’ lives and personal accomplishments. Karen has freely shared her expertise and love for nursing with me, for which I will forever be grateful. She is one of the kindest people I know.” 

It’s not just colleagues and students who’ve been influenced by Bess’ expertise and love for nursing. Her daughter, Robin Welch, is a registered nurse in the OR at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital. 

Bess is nostalgic about her lasting career at BJH and Goldfarb. “This is the only job that I ever really had, working and teaching at this hospital,” Bess says. “The people I know here have been like a family. I met my husband here; both of us worked here together for many years. I feel like I belong in that hospital, I’ve spent so much time there. That’s what I’m going to miss when I retire.” 

Vice dean of finance and administration also retiring

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Tom Edler

Tom Edler, vice dean of finance and administration at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College, is set to retire in May after 34 years of service on the Barnes-Jewish Hospital campus. 

Starting his career in the accounting department as the director of budgets and Medicare cost reporting at BJH, Edler has seen a lot of change throughout the hospital and the college. “One of my first tasks was to convert the budget process from a paper-and-pencil process to a computerized process,” Edler recalls. He spent 18 years working in various clinical departments throughout the hospital until joining the college in 1998. “The college has been constantly changing while I’ve been here. It has grown in student enrollment, as well as new programs and also a new building. It’s been fast-paced and exciting.” 

His colleagues say Edler has been a major contributor to the growth and success of the college. “I’ve worked with Tom for more than 14 years,” says Wade Lehde, Goldfarb information systems director. “His dedication to students, faculty and staff provided significant contributions to the college through times of transition and growth. Tom has been a true leader, doing his part to make the college what it is today, and his presence will be sorely missed. His sense of humor always provided release — seemingly at just the right time — and his knowledge of how to masterfully navigate through the BJH/BJC systems to acquire the resources the college needed has been extremely important to the college’s success.” 

“During my years with the hospital and college, I have been fortunate to work with a number of highly talented and committed individuals,” Edler says. “These are the people who make this hospital and this college great. They go above and beyond for the patients, for the students or for their colleagues. They are what I will miss most, but I know they will continue to take good care of my hospital and my college.” 

Join in celebrating Karen Bess’ and Tom Edler’s careers, 3:30-5:30 p.m. April 22, with a presentation at 3:45 p.m., in the lobby of Goldfarb Hall at Goldfarb School of Nursing. RSVP for the celebration by emailing GSON-RSVP@bjc.org.

Advance your learning and develop as a leader

ImageFor more than 50 years, nurse practitioners have provided high quality, cost efficient patient care, establishing themselves as an integral component of the health care team. Their roles continue evolve in response to societal influences; in particular, expanded access to health care, provider shortages, the aging population and the trend of cost containment.

To address this evolution in health care, Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College offers the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) concentration, a master’s degree program for nurses with a minimum of two years’ recent critical care experience.

“Acute care nurse practitioners draw from their valuable experiences as bedside nurses and integrate the knowledge and skills acquired in their advanced nursing education into patient care,” says Beth Beyatte, director of the AGACNP program. “This is the next logical step for nurses interested in expanding their practice and maintaining close relationships with their patients by participating in the overall management of their illnesses.”

AGACNPs provide advanced nursing care in a variety of practice settings to adult and geriatric patients experiencing acute, critical, complex chronic health conditions. While many AGACNPs practice in hospitals in areas that include emergency departments, intensive care units and general patient care areas, they also work in specialty care, long-term acute care and ambulatory care settings. They are involved in all aspects of patient management, working collaboratively with physicians and other members of the health care team to stabilize patients, minimize complications and promote physical and psychological wellbeing.

Students in the Goldfarb AGACNP program gain hands-on clinical experience at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, one of the nation’s best hospitals. Unlike most schools, Goldfarb pre-arranges relationships with clinical sites and preceptors so students do not have to do this work on their own. “Preceptors and clinical sites can be a hot commodity for advanced practice nursing students. Securing them removes the responsibility from the students and allows them to concentrate on other aspects of their education. Our students learn from top-notch advanced practice nursing providers, physicians and other members of the health care team. I feel confident they are receiving the best nursing that medicine has to offer,” Beyatte says.

The 27-month sequential program includes small, face-to-face classes. Students establish a strong connection with faculty, who actively practice in the clinical setting. Specialty courses provide an in-depth review of system-specific health problems commonly seen in the acute care setting. They also offer students the opportunity to hone their skills in ECG and radiology interpretation and perform invasive procedures in Goldfarb’s technologically advanced simulation center.

Graduates of the program are prepared to assume the many responsibilities associated with the role of the AGACNP nurse and the demands of the patient population. “There are always opportunities for growth and leadership as an AGACNP,” Beyatte says. “The possibilities are endless.”

If you’re ready to advance your learning and develop as a leader in your field, apply for Goldfarb’s AGACNP program. Apply online at BarnesJewishCollege.edu/ApplyNow or contact the admissions office by phone at 314-454-7057 or by email at gson-admissions@bjc.org.

Think of Your Heart First: Understanding Heart Failure Symptoms

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Dr. K Reeder, research assistant professor at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College

An estimated 5.1 million Americans have heart failure, a figure that is expected to increase 25 percent by 2030. Heart failure is a serious, chronic condition associated with frequent hospitalizations and a high rate of death.

Living with heart failure requires vigilance in self-management and monitoring, including early recognition, interpretation and reporting of symptoms. For many patients, taking care of their heart failure is challenging, as symptoms may be vague, may wax and wane over time, or may overlap with other conditions and medication side effects.

A study conducted by Dr. K. Reeder is aimed at helping patients manage heart failure, improve quality of life, and avoid hospitalization. Dr. Reeder is a nurse researcher at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2010, Dr. Reeder received a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) to study how patients recognize, interpret, and manage heart failure symptoms. Descriptions of patients’ symptom experiences will enhance understanding of how patients perceive their symptoms and the self-care strategies they use to relieve their symptoms.

Findings from Dr. Reeder’s study indicate patients often fail to recognize and attribute signs and symptoms to their heart, even though all of the patients interviewed experienced at least one of the three most common symptoms leading to hospitalization:  1) shortness of breath, 2) fatigue, and 3) swelling or weight gain due to excess fluid retention. Patients participating in this study often reported that their symptoms were caused by a variety of things other than heart failure, such as changes in their diet or medications and other illnesses such as pneumonia or diabetes. One patient said, “I couldn’t walk to the mailbox without shortness of breath. I would sit and rest halfway to the mailbox, and then my shortness of breath would disappear. I never recognized it as my heart. I thought it was my lungs, probably pneumonia.”

Patients in this study also delayed reporting symptoms to a health care provider; some delaying for over two weeks or until symptoms were severe. One patient said, “I thought I had an upper respiratory infection and would get over it. I had shortness of breath approximately six weeks, but it got worse in the last two weeks. My friend took me to the emergency room.”

Other studies have found that early recognition and reporting of symptoms to health care providers is an important step in preventing hospitalizations, yet Dr. Reeder’s study showed that recognizing and interpreting symptoms related to heart failure may be difficult, leading to use of various self-care strategies and delayed reporting to health care providers.

If you are living with heart failure (or know someone who is living with heart failure), think of your heart firstsm when you feel changes in your health.

  1. Think of your heart firstsm if you have shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling and weight gain, and report these symptoms to your health care provider.
  2. Even if you have other diseases or illnesses that could be causing your symptoms, think of your heart first when you have symptoms, as symptoms of other conditions are often related to your heart.
  3. Think of your heart firstsm by recognizing early signs and symptoms, and reporting them to your doctor. Be aware of signs and symptoms such as a cough that won’t go away, upset stomach, nausea, or lack of appetite, confusion or altered thinking and racing or throbbing heart.

For more information about this research, please contact Dr. K Reeder, Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College, 314-286-2654, kreeder@bjc.org.

This project is supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health under award number R00NR012217. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Nursing Research.

Volunteering to Make a Difference

We are excited to have Stephen Kielbasa, a BSN student at Goldfarb School of Nursing, back as a guest blogger. In this blog he shares his experience, and the experiences of two other Goldfarb students, volunteering at a community event this spring. 

Mother To Mother Luncheon

From left to right, Goldfarb School of Nursing students, Emily Hancock, Stephen Kielbasa, Jeannetta Brooks

I’ll admit it—pink shirts often get overlooked when I get dressed in the morning. When it comes to supporting good causes though, I’m always willing to go the extra mile and so are the members of our Goldfarb Student Nursing Association (SNA). Despite being on term break, several SNA members donned pink shirts and volunteered for the Mother To Mother Luncheon at SqWires restaurant in April. Mother To Mother provides support to soon-to-be mothers and those experiencing postpartum adjustment disorder (PPAD). Thanks to events like the fund-raising luncheon, Mother To Mother is able to offer its services at no cost to clients. Here are some thoughts from fellow SNA members and students who also attended the event.

“I wanted to volunteer for the Mother To Mother Luncheon because the services the organization provides are both important and unique. Because I’m a mom, I understand the stress and anxiety that occur during pregnancy and after giving birth. I think that Mother To Mother provides a vital service that addresses issues that are often ignored.

There’s often a stigma attached to postpartum depression, and I listened with admiration as a Mother To Mother client shared her story, which was both courageous and insightful. I really enjoyed meeting the staff and the different guests, as well as getting to know some of my classmates who were volunteering.” Emily Hancock, BSN – Upper Division

“I was happy to have the opportunity to volunteer for and support Mother To Mother. As a mother, I know that along with the joys of motherhood come periods of emotional contention that may need additional support. The organization recognizes the many degrees of PPAD and is able to provide resources to assist even the most severe cases at no cost to the mother.

It was a great pleasure to spend my day supporting one of their biggest fund raising events and help ensure that Mother To Mother can provide services to mothers throughout the St. Louis Metro Area.” Jeannetta Brooks, BSN – Accelerated

At the end of the event, I think we all agreed that the Mother To Mother Luncheon was a great experience. We had an opportunity to see the innerworkings of a nonprofit organization and participate in supporting a great cause. I want to thank our student volunteers, and I hope that many more will join the SNA in supporting other great causes this year.

Stephen Kielbasa, SNA community chair

For more information about Mother To Mother, visit www.mothertomothersupport.org or call 314-644-7001.

Missouri Nurses Association Nurse Advocacy Day

Nurses not only impact health care by teaching future nurses and by caring for patients, but many are involved in shaping laws to enhance patient care and the nursing profession. A group of students witnessed firsthand how nurses are influencing laws at the 27th Annual Missouri Nurses Association Nurse Advocacy Day in Jefferson City, Missouri. Stephen Kielbasa, a BSN student at Goldfarb School of Nursing, shares his experiences from that day and what he learned while at the state capital.

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Stephen Kielbasa, along with fellow student Gina Kitterer (center) and faculty member Dr. Mary Curtis, enjoyed their time at the capitol during the Missouri Nurses Association Nurse Advocacy Day.

One couldn’t help but feel the anticipation while watching and listening to the hustle and bustle of the crowd. Friends and strangers chatted away. Nurses, professional and student wandered through exhibits. Hungry conference-goers balanced bagels and coffee cups in their hands waiting for the event to begin. Why all the excitement? Well, this was just the beginning of what would turn out to be an informative and adventurous day in Jefferson City, Missouri —the 27th Annual Missouri Nurses Association (MONA) Nurse Advocacy Day.

MONA drew registered nurses and students from all parts of Missouri to the Missouri state capital to learn about the legislative process and the importance of organizing our collective lobbying power. The day included a number of speakers and a visit to the capitol building. We learned about current state legislative efforts and how to interact with our representatives. I found learning about the legislative efforts to be especially interesting.

As student nurses we often do not realize that the framework for our profession is being decided right now, before we even graduate. For example, did you know that advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) do not have the same flexibility to practice in Missouri as they do in other states? Doesn’t quite seem fair, does it? Fortunately, there are groups like MONA who are advocating on our behalf about this and other issues.

While visiting the capitol, another student and I turned our trip into a legislative scavenger hunt. We visited the senate and house chambers, took photos and even tracked down our state representative Sue Meredith from district 71. I was surprised how easy it was to talk with Representative Meredith and impressed by her willingness to talk with constituents.

As a nurse, I want what’s best for my profession and feel I have a responsibility to advocate for our patients. I’m convinced that the best way to do so is to organize nurses so that our voices can be heard within the halls of our legislature. That’s why it is important to have an organization like MONA that not only represents our voice but also provides its members an opportunity to participate.

I encourage nursing students to participate in events like this. I found it to be a great opportunity to interact with my peers and learn a little bit more about how I can help make nursing a great profession.

To learn more about Missouri Nurses Association (MONA), visit www.missourinurses.org.

And find out who your state representative is at www.house.mo.gov.