QUINCY — A roomful of Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences students on the verge of graduation peppered area legislators Friday morning at Spring Lake Country Club on topics ranging from end-of-life care and medical marijuana to compact licensure.
A bi-state panel of Sen. Jil Tracy, Rep. Randy Frese and Rep. Greg Sharpe spent the better half of an hour discussing health care issues and saluting 60 or so students in attendance for their career path and commitment to the medical profession.
“You are valued. You will always have a job because of what you do,” Tracy, R-Quincy, said. “We appreciate what you have done and congratulate you for that effort.”
Tracy emphasized the important role that nurses — present and future — will play in helping to shape legislation, whether it be in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, or wherever their career leads them.
“You have a voice, and it needs to be heard,” Tracy said. “The power of the people is that you can impact legislation.”
Brenda Beshears, Blessing-Rieman president and CEO, echoed the senator’s thoughts on speaking up and speaking out.
“It is very important as we launch young graduates into the work world, that they understand the necessity of being involved with their legislators,” Beshears said. “They can influence things they will see and participate in as registered nurses that can affect the health of the community of individuals (they serve), the quality of care they give, and so many other issues that are legislated.
“So it’s really important for these students to have that connection and see the impact that their voice could have.”
Frese, R-Paloma, and Sharpe, R-Ewing, Mo., extended open invitations to the students to let them know “we want to hear you. We respect your work and need your voices to be heard.”
Three Quincy University students from the St. Louis area — Emilee Autry, Paige Anderson and Emma Vaughn — all plan to return to their hometown after graduation (May 13) to begin their careers. Because of QU’s unique relationship with Blessing’s nursing program, all three students were also able to play varsity soccer for four years while concentrating their education on nursing, and its many demands.
QU nursing students fill their first three semesters with general education requirements before transitioning to Blessing-Rieman full time for their junior and senior years.
Vaughn, who attended Incarnate Word Academy and calls St. Charles, Mo., home, said the hands-on experience of working on all the units at Blessing Hospital is something she will always be thankful for.
“All of the experiences that Blessing has given us, all of our clinicals … I think that puts Quincy a step ahead as far as planning for your future,” said Vaughn, who will start her career in labor and delivery “because you get to welcome new life into the world.”
Autry said returning to the hospital in person in the fall of 2020 gave her QU classmates a leg up on students she knew in other programs that were prevented from doing so because of the pandemic aftereffects.
“We were really blessed to be able to get back into the hospital for the start of our junior years,” Autry said. “Virtual learning is challenging enough. For nurses, because it’s such a hands-on profession, there are things you just can’t learn through a computer screen.”
Blessing faculty member Marianne Schmitt hopes the graduating seniors understand the important roles they will play in advocating for themselves and their profession.
“That’s why it’s important to get to know your legislators,” Schmitt said. “Get to know them and let them know the issues facing our profession. We need that representation, now more than ever.”