PhD Student Represents UA Nursing Students at American Association of Colleges of Nursing Policy Summit

May 20, 2019

At the end of March, University of Arizona College of Nursing PhD student and MEPN program clinical instructor Claire Bethel, MSN, RN-BC, travelled to Washington D.C. for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Policy Summit. Bethel, who anticipates that she will earn her PhD in 2021, was UA Nursing’s student representative for the annual event, which is open to baccalaureate and graduate nursing students enrolled at an AACN member institution. Students who attend the Summit are immersed in program sessions focused on the federal policy process and nursing’s role in professional advocacy. Not only did Bethel participate in the conference, but she also created an informative short video about the AACN and her experience at the summit. The video will be used by Drs. Lori Martin-Plank and Jessica Rainbow for use in their health policy and economics course.

We caught up with Claire recently to learn more about her experience at the AACN Summit and her experience as a PhD student at UA Nursing.

Tell us about your experience as the UA Nursing student rep at the AACN Policy Conference.

After learning about advocacy for the nursing profession at the Arizona state level through my state nurses’ association, I wanted to learn about advocacy on the national level. The AACN Student Policy Summit is a 3-day conference held in Washington, DC where students are immersed in the policy process and given the tools to advocate on behalf of nursing at the federal level. Dean Moore and I had the opportunity to meet with the health policy advisors for Senators McSally and Sinema to discuss Title VIII Workforce Development funds, like Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP) and the Arizona Nursing Inclusive Excellence (ANIE) program. 

“After learning about advocacy for the nursing profession at the Arizona state level through my state nurses' association, I wanted to learn about advocacy on a national level ." ~ Claire Bethel, MSN, RN-BC

What led you to create your AACN video? Will the video be used in the classroom setting?

Drs. Rainbow and Martin-Plank originally shared the information about the conference. After I returned, they invited me to create a short video on my experience at the AACN Student Policy summit for their NURS642 Health Policy and Economics course. I had such a great experience at the AACN student policy summit and wanted to share my enthusiasm with other students, especially students who have received Title VIII funding like NFLP or ANIE funding themselves. During appropriations season members of Congress really need to hear the stories of student nurses who have received the funding and how it has made a difference for them.

Why did you choose a career in nursing?

I was drawn to nursing because of my interest in science and helping others. I stayed in nursing because I saw it was a privilege to advocate for others in the most vulnerable moments in their lives.

Why did you choose UA Nursing?

For nearly two years, I searched for the right PhD program. In fact, I interviewed a lot of faculty members and students at several programs throughout the west to be sure. One day in August of 2017 I emailed a faculty member at UA Nursing, Dr. Barbara Brewer, to set up a time to meet, and right away she invited me to come to visit the College. It turns out that was the last day of RISE, which is the intensive summer experience prior to the start of each academic year for the nursing graduate programs. The nursing graduate students were pitching their research areas of interest and others were presenting their posters during a reception. Dr. Brewer took me under her wing to introduce me to meet and discuss my interest area with the students and other faculty. I could clearly see how I, as a student, could learn from the faculty and benefit from the curriculum at UA. Dr. Brewer helped me see that I, and research interests, would fit right in.

Tell us about your experience in the PhD program.

I have had such an excellent experience in the PhD program. Not only has the cohort experience been essential to my success as a student, but the faculty are also incredibly supportive and truly invested in the success of us as students. One of my favorite experiences this year was walking the halls of the UA College of Nursing and Dr. Janice Crist inviting me in to her office for an impromptu chat on what it means to be a nurse. This is precisely the thought-provoking and challenging experience I craved to have as a PhD student.

What is it like being both a PhD student and a clinical instructor in the MEPN program? It must give you a unique perspective.

It’s really fun! I think, as a clinical instructor, being a student helps me appreciate what my students are going through. I love to ask my students probing questions that I ponder as a doctoral student such as, “is caring unique to nursing?” As a student, being a clinical instructor gives me hands-on experience in what it is that I ultimately wish to do- teach!

What does the future hold for you?

My passion for nursing lies in the preparation of nurses. This keys into both my passion as a nurse educator and fuels my research interests.