ACE Program Elective: Advocating for Change

Most people assume that completion of a Registered Nurse or advanced practice clinician degree means that nurses have been trained in all aspects of patient care related to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care. You might be surprised to know that many nursing school programs do not spend a substantial amount of time on SRH topics, such as contraception, options counseling, trans healthcare, and abortion procedures in their training.

Nursing students can add sexual and reproductive health information into the training agendas at their schools by:

  • Surveying instruction and assessing the level and quality of SRH content and training offered at their school.
  • Developing and implementing elective training opportunities and lecture series.
  • Inviting speakers to give talks about SRH topics to students.
  • Training other nursing students to become activists for their own education and for their patients.
  • Organizing opportunities for students to learn about the nursing role in SRH topics like abortion, options counseling, intimate partner violence, trans healthcare, mens sexual health, sexual health education, and contraceptive counseling.

In many ways, nursing students are the best advocates for change in nursing education, but advocacy, especially for inclusion of abortion curriculum, is not without risk to individuals at the beginnings of their careers. Nursing Students for Sexual and Reproductive Health (NSSRH) works closely with nursing students who are engaged in curriculum reform and advocacy for nursing education to mitigate individual career risk at every step of the reform process. If you are planning to work toward better abortion education in your nursing school, please contact NSSRH to develop effective, low-risk strategies that will balance your immediate advocacy goals with your long-term career plans.

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"Nursing schools have the responsibility of teaching students about all areas of health care - including controversial and challenging topics. This is particularly important for issues surrounding all areas of reproductive and sexual health. Advocating for changes in nursing school curricula to include expanded areas of reproductive and sexual health such as human rights, LGBTQ issues, ethics, spontaneous and induced abortion, and values clarification is critical to ensure competent and compassionate future nurses."
- Helen Baker, MSc, RN, Emory University

"Providing evidence based information to students and faculty regarding sexual and reproductive health care including abortion is one of the most important ways to ensure a well trained, well informed workforce. Faculty and students need to understand that patient centered sexual, reproductive, and abortion care should be grounded in meeting patients where they are - tailoring evidence based information, providing consultation and support, and ensuring access to services. Nurses need to embrace the full spectrum of service across the reproductive care continuum and to embrace the notion that all of us - regardless of our levels of education, licensure, or certification - possess the capacity for and competence to provide sexual, reproductive, and abortion care for the public across the life course."

- Monica R. McLemore RN, MPH, PhD
Associate Director, Community Engaged Research - UCSF Preterm Birth Initiative - California
Assistant Professor, Family Health Care Nursing Department
Associate Director, Community Engaged Research - UCSF Preterm Birth Initiative - California
Research Scientist, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH)
University of California, San Francisco


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