The Pennsylvania Action Coalition Launch: Students Speak Out

Jun 19, 2012, 1:09 PM

The following Q&A was conducted by Michelle Scott, a recent graduate of Rowan University who is an intern at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), working with The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. Scott recently attended a conference to launch the Pennsylvania Action Coalition, and interviewed some students who also participated. Read Scott’s reflections on the conference here.

Question: What do you feel your role as a rising physician will be in the plan to bring nurses and doctors together to work toward improving patient care?

Paul Shay: In health care, there has been a historical hierarchy that places the infallible physician above all other health care providers; however, recent literature has shown that collaborative health care is the best health care. It turns out that doctors aren’t infallible, and every team member, from social worker to nurse to physician, is equally valuable in patient care.

As a rising physician, I would be foolish not to embrace this collaboration in my future practice. I will make a concerted effort to let all of my non-physician colleagues know and feel that they are equal members in our team. Furthermore, it is equally, or arguably more, important that I advocate for other physicians to do the same. And outside of our own practices, we need to support the efforts of nursing organizations such as the Pennsylvania Action Coalition and the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA).

Of course, I’m still just a first year medical student, and it will be a while before I’m an attending physician, but I don’t want to wait to make these changes. That is why I joined the Penn Nursing/Medical Student Alliance (PNMSA). We’re a collaborative, interdisciplinary organization between nursing students and medical students at the University of Pennsylvania. We aim to foster an environment of collegiality, camaraderie, and interdisciplinary understanding among students of both schools.

Question: What goals of the PA Action Coalition or PSNA have encouraged you to attend the meeting and to become proactive in their cause?

Shay: I heard about the event from a nursing student member of PNMSA, Megan Sullivan. She told me that the title of the conference was “Partnering to Transform Healthcare in Pennsylvania.” Since our group promotes nurse/physician partnership in health care, it only made sense for me to attend. I didn’t know much about the PSNA or PA Action Coalition before the conference, but I’m extremely glad I came. It gave me a much more nuanced view into the nursing perspective. And I learned of the proactive steps that both groups, the PSNA and the PA Action Coalition, are taking to fill the growing medical needs of our state.


Question: Can you explain some of the major goals of your organization, what the group dynamic is like, and some of the roles within the group?

Lena Gayraud: The main goal of the Penn Nursing Medical Student Alliance (PNMSA) is to foster interdisciplinary connections during our educational experiences, to ultimately benefit our professional practice and patient outcomes. Teamwork across disciplines in health care is crucial, so we want to establish mutual understanding of one another’s disciplines from the beginning of our education and careers.

The group only just started this past winter. Our specific aims thus far have been to increase social interaction, and start looking to assess medical and nursing students’ desire for interdisciplinary education, and act upon those wishes with curricular changes. It’s a huge task and will take a long time, but we’re all dedicated and passionate about the cause.

The group dynamic is infectious. Everyone is excited, motivated and driven about our cause and our goals. We’ve worked hard and had a great time getting to know one another, not only at our meetings but outside of school, too.

Question: You said your diverse educational background encouraged you to take the accelerated nursing program. How do you think this will improve patient care? Why is connecting with patients important to you?

Gayraud: The accelerated nursing cohort is an interesting and diverse bunch. My classmates have degrees varying from neuroscience to gender studies to architecture, and many have work experience in a huge variety of fields. I think that our nontraditional background gives us perspective on health care in the bigger picture. We are able to work through challenges and view health care from different angles. Diversity also helps in connecting with patients in different ways, beyond just their condition or health. Finally, for many of us, discovering nursing at a later point in life fuels a passion and energy for the profession, which carries us through the program and beyond.


Question: What kind of experiences with nursing students who seem to lack enthusiasm about their profession encouraged you to get more involved?

Adrianne Dudley: I know I want to be a part of the discussion and decision-making for the future of nursing, and I hope I am able to motivate others not just to be involved, but to be excited about the endless possibilities of our profession. We need to find a way to get students and those already in the profession to see joining an association as “required reading” instead of the “optional supplement” that you never purchase. Time and financial constraints are probably the hardest obstacles for people to move around, but necessity is the mother of invention and I knew that I needed an outlet. I needed something that would allow me access to potential employers but also expose me to other areas of nursing so that I could make the best decision for my career path.

Question: How will attending these conferences affect your future nursing goals and what do you hope to gain?

Dudley: Every day I immerse myself in a journal article, conference seminar or even talking to friends who are nurses, I learn something new about my profession. Going to conferences continues to fan the flame of excitement I have to begin my career. Attending helps prepare me to be a professional and stay abreast of the amazing changes that are being made. My profession is moving into new areas, exploding through uncharted territory and evolving into the most respected group on earth (though I think we were there already!) and I am honored to be a part of that and will continue to put myself in the position to witness these great events.

Learn more about the Campaign for Action here.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.