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On Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 the NYIT Department of Nursing’s senior class, which included 30 students and 3 faculty members, made our way up to Albany for our annual trip for NYSNA’s (New York State Nursing Association) Lobby Day at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. We had been preparing all semester to lobby for Safe Staffing Ratios, Bill S3681, and Safe Patient Handling, Bill: A2180-A/S1123-A. Students had prepared brochures, abstracts and flyers in order to support their position when meeting with their assigned legislators.
Our plans were slightly derailed by a last minute proposal in NYS budget talks that would threaten to deregulate the practice of nursing in NYS by amending the nurse practice act. The proposal would have significant impact on the nursing profession. Derailing the nurse practice act would mean that corporate driven healthcare institutions would be replacing highly skilled and trained nurses with inadequately trained workers, patients would suffer tremendously, and the nursing profession would be placed in jeopardy. This urgent matter came about the night before our trip. We were asked if we still wanted to attend, as the day would be slightly chaotic and not our typical Lobby day experience. We decided that NYSNA needed us more than ever at this crucial time.
The students were alerted to the change in the agenda at 6:30 am, when they arrived on the bus, at approximately 10:30, we met up with 2 NYSNA representatives about an hour outside of Albany to review the current agenda with the students and faculty, and assign legislators for us to meet with. We arrived in Albany in full gear, ready to support our nursing profession. Upon arrival for our first appointment we were informed that all legislators were to be in lockdown meetings all day. We were met with the assistants of our assigned representatives, who listened attentively and assured us that our concerns will be reported to the representative themselves.
We met with New York State Senator Kenneth Lavalle’s assistant who is the director of the higher education committee, Assemblyman David McDonough, and Assemblyman Michael Montesano’s assistants.
The students, who had received this information on such short notice, and with little preparation for the task at hand, stepped up to the plate, and conducted themselves in a very professional manner and were quite expressive in their opinions.
The students who spoke were eloquent and poised, and were received with a warm reception. They were also thrilled to engage in the political process and debate for what they believe in. This was an important milestone for them after many semesters in the classroom and hospital, to understand how they can help shape the political agenda and policy, and help fellow nurses meet the challenges of the future.
Dr. Cheryl Zauderer, PhD, CNM, NPP