Students from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) networked, campaigned for national office, and proposed a resolution that addressed the health disparities affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) population at this year's National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) Annual Convention.
Members of the Hopkins group -- senior Amy Hoffmann and juniors Marcella Leath, Danielle Miller, and Bethany Roth -- traveled with faculty member Rosemary Mortimer, MEd, RN, for the April 7-11 Orlando, FL convention. While there, Miller was elected to the national board as Director East to represent students from the Eastern Region. In her new role she plans to address student concerns, including a movement to standardize the prerequisites for nursing degrees.
The Hopkins contingent presented a resolution developed by the Hopkins NSNA Resolutions Committee to address the health disparities affecting the LGBT community due to a lack of culturally prepared nurses. "The idea came from our awareness of the deficiencies that existed within our own institution regarding education specific to LGBT health concerns," Roth said. The students were concerned after completing their health assessment class about the absence of information given regarding topics such as the gender spectrum, the need to ask how a patient identifies their gender, the barriers to care affecting LGBT individuals, and the needs of same-sex couples and families navigating the legal problems affecting their access to supportive health care.
The resolution proposes that the NSNA support LGBT education in nursing school curricula as a means to improve health disparities and the cultural competence of professional nurses. It was presented to the House of Delegates, which consists of representatives from each school's chapter. The resolution was passed with approximately 66 percent of the vote.
Miller hopes to use the Hopkins resolution to make the NSNA a more progressive organization. "Our resolution is very much a social hot button issue." She added, "I think the organization could move our profession forward if we choose to break out of the box a little bit more."
The NSNA will send the resolution to the top nursing organizations in the country, including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), Credentialing Center for Nursing Education (CCNE), American Nursing Association (ANA), and the National League of Nursing (NLN). Copies will also be sent to the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), in addition to several other organizations.
Hoffmann, a senior, served as a mentor to her Hopkins classmates because she experienced the resolution process at last year's convention. She was impressed by the professionalism and dedication of her peers. "They did a really outstanding job. They empowered and recognized an area of clients that have very decisive health disparities," Hoffmann said.
Upon returning from the convention the students seek to share the energy and ideas they absorbed with the chapter and the School. "There's such a buzz and a rush that you get from going to convention," Leath said. "You just want to make a change about what you're doing and what you're getting educated about."
Leath was elected the Hopkins NSNA chapter president after the convention and will focus on increasing NSNA membership, creating a mentor program for pre-nursing students, and connecting current students with alumni. Leath also wants to maintain a connection with the other Maryland nursing students she met at the convention.
Mortimer, who serves as the faculty advisor for the Hopkins NSNA chapter and accompanies students to the convention annually, noted "[The students] are extraordinarily professional. They looked good, they sounded good, and they knew what they were talking about." Mortimer added, "The NSNA staff is thrilled to have another student from Hopkins on the board, as JHUSON hasn't had any students on the national board for the past two years and the staff has commented to me that this was unfortunate because we always send them such incredible students."
In addition to campaigning and developing legislation, Hopkins students speak and network with other students and nursing professionals at the convention. "I think they're blown away when they realize how much influence they have across the country. It's an experience of them getting to talk and network with people and know that these resolutions will have an impact in other places besides their school," Mortimer said.