In their own words, by Melanie Baucom

Photo of Melanie Baucom

Melanie Baucom, DNP, CRNP, FNP-BC (BSN 2009, MSN 2010, DNP 2019), is an Instructor and Director of the Graduate Nursing Education Primary Care Scholars Program, mentoring nurse practitioner students who are dedicated to providing care in rural communities. Baucom also serves on the Alabama Rural Health Association Board of Directors.

Policy decisions made at the state level impact health outcomes for Alabama residents, with vulnerable populations often bearing the brunt of the effects. Having worked with underserved and rural populations throughout my career has highlighted for me the need for health policy changes.

That’s one of the reasons I participated in Nurses Day at the Capitol, an event started and supported by the Alabama State Nurses Association. This has historically been an opportunity for nurses and nursing students to show solidarity for the profession and the importance of our voting power. I, other faculty from the School and students were able to sit in on special committee meetings and meet with some legislators.

Several students from the Graduate Nursing Education Primary Care Scholars program participated. The GNEPCS program, funded by The Daniel Foundation of Alabama, provides opportunities for primary care advanced practice nursing students to obtain additional training to better prepare them to care for rural and underserved communities.

When these students graduate and work in communities across the state, they might be the only provider that their patients have regular access to for primary, women’s or mental health care. It’s important for them to understand that their voice matters and when they see a need, they can advocate for change.

One of my Primary Care Scholars who is a nurse-midwifery student was able to explain to one of the legislators more about the nurse midwife role. That one simple thing, that one quick introduction, hopefully will be able to open the door to some bigger conversations in the future. Our hope is that this experience will not be a singular event, but an opportunity for our students, and eventual graduates, to work on building meaningful relationships with policymakers to help impact change.

Health care is a complex issue, and it is challenging to stay in the know on all these different matters. I hope that activities like this can serve as an opportunity to ensure nurses get to be a part of these discussions—to help provide our senators and representatives with a robust perspective about how policy decisions can impact different communities and populations across the state.

One of the bills we advocated for that day ended up passing and being signed into law—the Preceptor Tax Incentive Program Act—which will provide tax incentives to advanced practice nurse preceptors to help increase the number of advanced practice nurses trained in rural and underserved areas. It was a great opportunity for the students to see that their actions can lead to beneficial changes.

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