On April 17th, more than 150 nurse practitioners (NP) and NP students from across New York State went to Albany to meet with lawmakers and urge passage of legislation that could positively impact patients and families. A group of students and faculty from Columbia Nursing attended the event, which is organized annually by the Nurse Practitioner Association New York State (The NPA). For these students, the experience was both powerful and thought-provoking.
Stephen Ferrara, DNP, associate dean of clinical affairs and executive director of The NPA, led the group from Columbia and has been participating in the annual event for many years.
“Although students may only have limited clinical experience, they have likely faced scenarios where the proposed legislation we are discussing with lawmakers has affected a patient,” said Ferrara. “This visit to the state Capitol not only exposes students to the legislative process but also provides them with an opportunity to actively participate.”
Additionally, Ferrara notes that legislators appreciate seeing and hearing from students because they represent the future of the NP profession.
The NPA identified three legislative priorities for this year’s Capital Day Discussion including:
- A healthcare proxy bill that would enable patients to fully contemplate and implement end-of-life decisions in consultation with their primary care provider who, in many instances, is an NP.
- Workers compensation legislation that would modernize the workers compensation system to recognize nurse practitioners as providers.
- A clinical preceptorship tax credit for certain health care professionals, including NPs, who provide community-based instruction to students.
The clinical preceptorship tax credit is particularly relevant to students because it addresses a need for more preceptors, licensed clinicians who provide oversight and mentorship so students can fulfill the clinical hours required to earn their degree. In New York State (and elsewhere) there is a lack of NP preceptors.
Addressing this problem is also relevant to a greater need in the U.S. healthcare system—the shortage of primary care and mental health providers that is already affecting patients’ access to health care and is expected to worsen in coming years. NPs who become primary care or mental health providers can help fill this void. The law would encourage the participation of more preceptors and alleviate the bottleneck preventing more students from moving into their professional careers more quickly.
The activities during Capital Day are focused on ensuring that legislators have enough knowledge about these topics to make informed decisions. At the beginning of the day, three legislators welcomed all 150 representatives of the NP profession in NY State, noting “We need to hear from you so we can better understand the issues.”
Afterward, the NPs and NP students broke into smaller groups. Those new to policy meetings were placed with a team leader experienced in performing the functions of a legislative visit. They met with legislators throughout the day.
“It was an energizing day,” said Ferrara. “We are there each year to remind legislators that nurse practitioners and nurse practitioner students are part of the health care landscape and there are issues that prevent patients from getting care. We need to work together to decrease barriers and increase access to care.”
Ferrara encourages more students to sign up next year.
“Columbia Nursing focuses a lot on health policy, and we are unique in that we afford this opportunity to our students.” he said. “Participating in Capital Day is a great way to go beyond learning about policy in the classroom and come before your lawmakers to say, ‘This is an issue and we would love your support on improving it.’”
Columbia Nursing student Alice Chan, who attended the event for the first time this year, can attest to the value of participating.
“I was excited to see so many nurse practitioners advocating for our profession,” she said. “I did not realize what a difference we can make in legislation just by being there, teaching others about our field, and sharing our stories and experiences. It was a wonderful experience.”