Tara Brunin, SRNA, Andrea Yoder, SRNA, and Paul Hertel, CRNA, flew to Washington, D.C., April 10-13, 2011, to attend the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists' (AANA) Mid-Year Assembly of States. This annual assembly provides an opportunity for nurse anesthesia students to develop expertise in federal legislative and regulatory issues and learn about the legislative process. Attending this event allows students to experience a part of professional practice that cannot be replicated in the classroom or clinical setting.
For several years, the nurse anesthesia program at KU has endorsed student attendance to this very important political meeting on Capitol Hill. Despite a possible closing of government due to stalled budgetary legislation, certified registered (CRNA) and student registered nurse anesthetists (SRNA) arrived from all over the United States to discuss issues critical to the safe, cost-effective, and high-quality care provided to patients. Topics of discussion at this year's event included promotion of the value of CRNAs in Federal health care programs, reversing proposed Medicare reimbursement reductions, restoration of rural anesthesia access, and efforts to increase educational funding in anesthesia.
While in the nation's capitol, Brunin, Yoder, and Hertel visited legislators from Kansas including Senator Jerry Moran, Senator Pat Roberts, Representative Kevin Yoder (no relation to Andrea Yoder from KU), Representative Huelskamp, and Representative Lynn Jenkins. Amongst other topics discussed, the legislators were especially interested in the students' opinions and concerns regarding nurse anesthesia education in rural locations and employment opportunities available within Kansas during the economic downturn.
As part of the Assembly, Yoder participated in a special mentoring program which paired selected students with an AANA board or committee member for the day. The goal of this program is to prepare students to continue their involvement with the political process after graduation and to develop lasting professional relationships between AANA members. Andrea was mentored by Donna Vierthaler, Vice President of the Kansas Association of Nurse Anesthetists (KANA). According to Yoder, this rewarding experience challenged her understanding of what it means to be an active and involved member of the profession and has encouraged her to attend future meetings. This was the second Mid-Year Assembly attended by Brunin, but still left a great impression on her. "Meeting with the governing body of this great country is both humbling and awe-inspiring, no matter how many times a nurse anesthetist has the opportunity to participate," she notes.
Hertel, a member of KU Nurse Anesthesia faculty and KANA board member, served as a valuable educator to the students during this trip. He facilitated important political discussions and was responsive to the students' desire to pursue continued lobbying efforts within both the state and national arenas. Additionally, Hertel proved to be a great tour guide of the Capitol's finest monuments.