Yvette Salas, MSN, CRRN, an infection preventionist and hospital educator at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Miami, is one of two recipients of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN) 2022 Nurse in Washington Internship (NIWI) Scholarship. The NIWI Scholarship is designed to educate and empower nurses to become directly involved with and influence policy at the local and national levels.
Pursuing her Passion
Salas earned her master’s degree in nursing, with a specialty in healthcare policy, from Chamberlain University in 2020. She chose Chamberlain because of its educational partnership with Encompass Health, which provides significant discounts on tuition for all nurses, and its unique healthcare policy specialty. She entered the program with the goals of becoming stronger in the advocacy arena and a more effective nursing leader.
According to Salas, Chamberlain’s online platform was easy to navigate, and the school was extremely helpful in assisting with tuition concerns and any barriers to online learning. She credits her education with helping her advance in her career and open up doors to new opportunities.
“As an educator and infection preventionist, I need to understand hospital-level policies and how they affect staff and improve patient outcomes,” she said. “The education I received at Chamberlain has helped me to achieve my career goals. I am now a part of Encompass Health’s Policy Committee. It is nice to see one’s recommendations being considered and implemented into nursing practice.”
Worth the Wait
While attending Chamberlain, Salas first learned about the ARN NIWI Scholarship and imagined how exciting it would be to learn to advocate on Capitol Hill. She considered applying, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She shifted her focus to infection prevention and worked diligently to keep staff and patients safe.
Then in 2021, she volunteered to be part of the ARN Political Action Committee and was appointed as a member. When ARN announced the 2022 NIWI Scholarship opportunity, she jumped at the opportunity to apply. She dreamed of utilizing her education and passion for advocacy to make a positive impact in the nursing profession, in rehabilitative care and within her community.
A Dream Realized
To Salas’ surprise, she was chosen as one of two recipients of the scholarship among many qualified candidates, earning her an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the NIWI Conference in Washington, D.C. in March. There, she met likeminded healthcare professionals with a passion for advocacy and gained confidence in her ability to enact positive change in her profession.
“A plethora of energy existed within the group of attendees and could be felt by all present,” she said. “The group was surprisingly young and diverse, which renewed my faith in the future of our profession. Expert speakers told stories about the power of a unified voice in creating change, and NIWI staff inspired us by reminding us that our voices matter and that we are the experts in healthcare.”
Salas said the group also engaged in role play to learn how to develop relationships and deliver requests to legislative teams. Finding a rhythm with political ‘asks,’ being knowledgeable about requests and becoming a trusted healthcare policy resource for the legislature were among the key takeaways, she said.
Power in numbers
A member of the ARN Florida Chapter since 2018, Salas appreciates the “network of support” the organization provides for rehabilitation nurses, including educational resources, political action activities and professional networking opportunities. She encourages staff to join ARN to help make the rehabilitation nursing voice heard.
“ARN allows a small voice to become a large voice,” she said. “I like the power behind a unified voice, because it carries the message with a stronger impact.”
A bright future
After the NIWI Conference experience, Salas feels more confident in her approach to requesting change if it is needed. She also feels proud of her career and the voice she has to make a lasting impact on the nursing profession.
“I’d encourage other nurses to take every opportunity to have your requests heard,” she said. “Be confident in your knowledge as a healthcare expert. As John F. Kennedy stated, ‘One person can make a difference and everyone should try.'”
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