ANNA Member Yeewan Sum Kao Reflects on 2014 Nurse In Washington Internship Program

ANNA member Yeewan Sum Kao participated in the Nurse in Washington Internship (NIWI) program in Washington, DC, March 30 through April 1, 2014. Sponsored by the Nursing Organizations Alliance, the NIWI program provides nurses the opportunity to learn how to influence health care through the legislative and regulatory processes. Participants learn from health policy experts and government officials, network with other nurses, and visit members of Congress. Read below to learn more about her NIWI experience.

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When I started this journey for the NIWI program, I quickly found out that I was not alone. Five more ANNA representatives joined me at NIWI: ANNA President-Elect Cindy Richards, Health Policy Committee (HPC) Chairperson Designate David Walz, HPC Advisor Anne Diroll, HPC Advisor Lucy Todd, and Big Sky Chapter Health Policy Representative Ruth Grindinger. Federal Health Policy Consultant Jim Twaddell also joined us briefly to touch base on ANNA health policy goals and current legislation activities. We all come from different states; however, we all have the same purpose and goals: to join with other nursing professionals to speak out as “one voice” for the nursing community and our patients. More than 160 participants from 30 states were present to meet with Congressmen and Senators during NIWI.

The NIWI speakers are phenomenal coaches, historians, educators, and inspiring motivators. The Nursing Organizations Alliance arranged the Congressional Staff Panel and professional Advocates Panel to prepare for our meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill. They presented the theme, “How to Meet with Your Congressmen,” which was tremendously helpful to us.

Our important message was that even though as a group we do not have the same thing to say all of the time, when the opportunity arises, we share a coordinated message of what’s really important and our profession wins. On Capitol Hill, NIWI participants delivered the same message to their legislators: to promote the health of Americans and increase access to care by supporting the Nursing Workforce Development programs, nursing research, and the APRN nursing practice, and to ensure veterans access to high quality care.

I met with Carina Marquez, legislative assistant for Representative Tim Walz (D-MN-1), to address the three key nursing community requests. In addition, I brought up the importance of chronic kidney disease (CKD) patient education and the benefits to supporting the education reimbursement for CKD patients. I also mentioned ANNA Kidney Disease Awareness and Education (KDAE) activities. This meeting went well, and she stated that Representative Walz is making efforts to support nursing professionals. She also showed great understanding and grasped the importance of CKD patient education.

There were six nurses from the state of Minnesota so we scheduled to meet with Kerry Allen, the legislative assistant for Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Prior to this meeting, we grouped together to organize how to present our purpose and goals. While we were waiting in the hallway to meet with Kerry, we ran into Senator Amy Klobuchar and asked to have a group picture with her. It was enjoyable to meet so many government officials who showed caring attitudes and a real concern for what we are doing. Kerry stated that this was the third meeting with nurses on that day and that Senator Amy Klobuchar is a strong advocate for nurses and nurse education. It was such a motivation for me to work with a legislator who understands what is needed in the nursing profession and supports excellent patient care in our health care system.

The NIWI program and the Capitol Hill visits are just the beginning of the road for the health policy advocate. As an ANNA health policy advisor, I learned that we are taking our advocacy to the next level by committing ourselves to building a network with legislators and maintaining consistent, meaningful relationships. Our responsibility is to support, mentor, and advocate the ANNA local chapter officers and members and to stand up for ourselves as nurses and most especially for CKD patients.

My future goals include:

  • Building long-term relationships with local, state, and federal legislators to support CKD education reimbursements and APRN practice by sending letters and emails and also communicating via CapWiz.
  • Meeting with staff from Congressmen’s local offices and attending town hall meetings.
  • Inviting Congressmen and state senators to attend KDAE programs.
  • Continuing to serve as HPC advisor, mentoring and nurturing chapter leaders to involve them in health policy activities and encouraging them to lend their voice as nurses and to speak out for whatever is needed for our kidney patients.
  • Working with the Advanced Practice SPN facilitators to serve as a HPC liaison in the support of APRN legislation that is critical for needed outcomes.

The NIWI program taught me that as nurses we can do more than just follow the procedures and guidelines of providing care for our patients. We can work to make the needed health care system changes, especially if we stand up and let our voice be heard. Advocacy is not about ourselves; it is about how we come together as “one voice.” We must believe, live that belief, and that belief shall come to pass.

Yeewan Sum Kao, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CNN
ANNA Health Policy Advisor
NIWI Grant Recipient
Greater Minnesota Chapter #329