UMass Amherst Hosts Nursing Think Tank

Aug 2, 2018
Nursing activism think tank participants

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Nursing hosted 50 nurses as part of a think tank on July 30-31, 2018 organized by the website, founded by Peggy Chinn, Adeline Falk-Rafael and Susan Hagedorn. The think tank was designed to bring nurses from all over the country together to focus on addressing some of the major political issues facing the nation.

The think tank event aimed to give nurses a platform to tell their stories and develop a plan to proceed as nurse activists. College of Nursing clinical assistant professor and think tank participant Raeann LeBlanc said, “There are so many things, such as significant inequalities in health care access and income. At every level from workplace safety, immigration, gun violence and threats to choice in health and basic civil rights that deeply influence well-being and health. There are many issues in which nurses may speak out that are fundamental to health and safety.”

A variety of activism topics were highlighted and there were no formal speakers or rigid programs. Instead, nurses were encouraged to share their stories and engage with each other thoughtfully, sharing ideas on ways to use their platform and be heard. Think tank participant and assistant dean for undergraduate nursing education Maeve Howett noted, “Nurses become activists often when they become frustrated with something standing in the way of excellent patient care—whether it is insurance hold-ups, lack of insurance, the cost of care or prescriptions—many things ‘activate’ nurses and the timing right now is truly necessary to step forward and say our health care system needs to be better.”

The first day of the event nurses worked with facilitators from Nurstory, a digital storytelling group founded by Hagedorn and StoryCenter, to tell their stories and the second day they worked on “developing their vision as a group.”

“One of the big things we will be addressing is, ‘I’m all alone. How do I address this? How am I going to find the courage? How do I find the support networks?,’” says Chinn.

Originally, the event was set to be a small group, but as interest grew, Chinn said she and Hagedorn decided to expand the event. With its commitment to social justice and health care equality, organizers knew the UMass Amherst College of Nursing would provide a welcoming environment and chose the college to host the think tank.  Many of the researchers within the college focus their work on using technology to address real-world health problems, making health care more accessible to all, especially the underserved. Three of those nurse-scientists participated in the think tank.

“Nurses provide the vast majority of care that patients receive, both in and out of the hospital. Nurses encounter and struggle with the inequities of care that patients experience and the personal cost to patients,” adds organizer Hagedorn.

The organizers of the think tank are featuring profiles on each of the nurses participating in the event on their website. Chinn said many members of the modern generation of nurses carefully chose the profession and are passionate about their work, saying “Nurses need to be visible, we need to be taking action.”

The event was free for participants. Chinn says there may be similar events in the future.

Learn more about the think tank and NurseManifest here.