School of Nursing Students Travel to Washington D.C. for the annual AACN Student Policy Summit

School of Nursing Students Travel to Washington D.C. for the annual AACN Student Policy Summit

Duke University School of Nursing PhD students joined forces to advocate for health equity and nurse-led policy innovation, showcasing the power of nursing in shaping the future of healthcare legislation.

AACN 2024
From L-R : Youran Lee, Veronica Herndon, Dean Relf, Michelina Schuster, Jill Sergison

The AACN Student Policy Summit (SPS), held annually in Washington, DC, is a two-day conference open to baccalaureate and graduate nursing students from AACN member institutions. At the 2024 Summit, held this past March, four Duke University School of Nursing PhD students joined hundreds of other students and nursing colleagues. Also in attendance was the School’s Professor and Interim Dean Michael Relf, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN, Associate Chief Nurse Executive for Academic Partnerships and Innovation for Duke University Health System.

School of Nursing Students at AACN 2024 Student Policy Summit
L-R: Youran Lee, Veronica Herndon, Dean Relf, Michelina Schuster, Jill Sergison

At the summit, students engaged in didactic program sessions focused on the federal policy process and nursing’s role in professional advocacy. Educating world-class nurse leaders who can help advance health equity through influencing legislation on a local, state, and national level is a core part of the School of Nursing’s mission, and the SPS provided the perfect opportunity for these students to flex their advocacy muscles.

In their own words, here are some of the reflections the students had upon returning to Duke from Washington DC.:

“For me, [the summit was] a great opportunity to see the power of nursing in advocating for advancing higher education, pursuing transformative research, and providing a better work environment for nurses to improve the quality of care. I loved the first session, Learning From the Past as we Prepare our Future Nursing Workforce. In this session they talked about the value of nursing, where nursing should be going, and how we can advocate for improving the power of nursing and providing better care.” – Youran Lee

“In terms of enhancing my nursing education, this experience was very powerful.  I have been doing healthcare policy professionally for a while, but I had never had it presented by nurses with the focus being nurse-led policies and leaders. It was inspiring and transformative for me to see how nurses function in powerful ways at so many levels of government.  So often in my work I am the only nurse at a policy table so I was incredibly uplifted by being a part of a nursing policy community. 

"My favorite part was watching some of the younger nurses really find their voice and ask some important and challenging questions of the panelists.  Made me confident that the future of nursing is in very good hands!” – Jill Sergison

“My favorite part was knowledge sharing and networking with over 200 nurse leaders with the same goal of elevating the voices of nurses in spaces where policy is made. It was really inspiring and motivates me to do more in healthcare and education policy.” – Veronica Herndon

Michelina Schuster in front of the US Capitol
Michelina Schuster in front of the US Capitol.

“My favorite part of the conference was meeting over 200 nurses and nurse leaders from across the country. Everyone was at different stages within their career, and it was an incredible opportunity being able to listen and share our experiences. In addition, it was very empowering and motivating to see nurses take action and advocate for the future health of the population. My favorite session was with former member of Congress from Missouri, the Honorable Alan Wheat, who discussed how he became involved in Congress. His story was very impactful as he shared all the obstacles he had to overcome in order to be successful. His message resonated with me because as nurses we have been historically underrepresented within health policy, however just because it has been like this, does not mean it needs to continue to be this way. The conference was the perfect example of this. As nurses, we came together to influence change for the future of the career and health of the nation.” – Michelina Schuster

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