The power of student advocacy
All of the hard work paid off for Brandy Seignemartin (second from right) and colleagues when Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 1726 into law.
This year, as the Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Associated Students of Washington State University Health Sciences (ASWSUHS), I helped lead the passage of HB 1726 in the Washington state legislature. The bill increased opportunities for interprofessional engagement by allowing any licensed nurse, physician, or pharmacist to supervise or precept any students in programs of nursing, medicine, or pharmacy, respectively, as long as the services being provided are within the shared scope of practice. Here’s how we did it.
Advocacy is about relationships
To get started, my mentor and 2019 APhA Good Government Pharmacist-of-the-Year Julie Akers, PharmD, BCACP, provided me with framework from a similar bill proposed in 2015 (the bill died quickly due to opposition). I used the resources of my student government role to motivate student engagement, build relationships with stakeholders in our state associations of nursing, medicine, and pharmacy, engage deans of health science colleges, and enlist many others in our campus community throughout the process. Well-connected mentors in pharmacy and other programs provided introductions to high-level stakeholders and shared their perspectives during difficult conversations.
Legislators were also important stakeholder relationships in the process. While service is our legislators’ purpose, I learned from State Representative Marcus Riccelli—the bill’s prime sponsor—that making legislative advocacy about relationships rather than transactions, by also inquiring about priorities and seeking collaboration, helps the community become a better place.
Organization keeps the policy moving
We organized students and professionals from campus and across the state to lobby the legislature, write letters, make calls, and testify in hearings. WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Associate Dean for Professional Education Jennifer Robinson, PharmD, generously rearranged her commitments to spend 2 different days with me at the statehouse in Olympia to provide testimony before the House and Senate committee hearings.
The bill was also on the agenda for the Washington State Pharmacy Association Legislative Day in February—coincidentally, this event is how I got interested in professional advocacy as a first-year student pharmacist—as well as our “Coug Day” at the Capitol event in January, where our non-health science students also lobbied for the bill. Students also arranged letter writing and calling campaigns during critical times in the process.
Success came in April as both the House and Senate passed the bill, and on May 7, Governor Jay Inslee signed it into law.
Partner with student government
Student government is a beneficial organization on most every college campus. Though structures vary, these organizations often hold a significant amount of influence and resources. My role in ASWSUHS has provided the opportunity to represent my student body, which consists of future health care providers and scientists, to the state legislature and Congress, as well as learn the ins and outs of the political process. I encourage students to explore opportunities within their student governments and encourage APhA–ASP Chapters to partner with their student governments on civic engagement endeavors.
I found it paramount to approach this process with a “Fearlessly Authentic” attitude by showing up each day with an open heart and open mind, finding strengths in myself and others, and keeping a growth mindset.
Brandy Seignemartin is a final-year PharmD candidate at the Washington State University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.