Nurse Takes Clinical Experience to Capitol Hill

Photo by Dan Dry

Janice Phillips, RN, PhD, manager of nursing research

By Kadesha Thomas

Janice Phillips, RN, PhD has held a variety of roles in nursing including nurse clinician, nurse researcher and patient advocate. This fall, Phillips, manager of nursing research at the Medical Center, will add another title to her broad nursing experience: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow.

Phillips was one of six health care professionals nationwide selected for the philanthropic organization’s prestigious fellowship, which begins with a three-month orientation on how national health policy is crafted and moved through Congress. For the following nine months, Phillips will be assigned to serve as a resident expert to the legislative or executive branch of government on health policy legislation.

“The real-world health and health care experiences of our fellows provide a critical perspective to major health policy decisions and will be invaluable as the country navigates health reform” said Marie Michnich, DrPH, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows program. “While being key players on Capitol Hill, our fellows also gain an insider’s view of the political process, leadership skills and a professional network that lasts a lifetime.”

Since health care reform is expected to bring medical services to more people, Phillips said, the nurse’s perspective will be especially needed. “Health policy is an area that nurses are well-positioned to get into,” Phillips said. “We can bring an expert perspective on the patient experience. Health policy is best informed by evidence based findings, clinical expertise and experience. The patient care experience serves as a vital component of the decision making process in the health policy arena.”

Phillips first became interested in health care policy in the late 1990s, when she worked as a program director for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). At the time, the NIH Revitalization Act had just been passed, which mandated that women and minorities be included in medical research. Since then, she has volunteered as the chair of the public policy committee for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer advocacy organization. In January 2010, the Illinois state legislature honored Phillips for her work successfully shepherding the Reducing Breast Cancer Disparities Act to the governor’s desk. The bill eliminates some co-pays and deductibles for mammograms, establishes patient navigation programs and increases Medicaid reimbursements for mammography.

Phillips said there is no better time to witness how the changes will take shape. “Legislation decides who will get resources, and someone has to understand and advocate for those resources,” Phillips said. “If I can come back to the Medical Center next year a little more informed about the process, then I will be a better health care provider.”