Jennifer Knaebel

After completing my bachelor's degree in nursing at Indiana University, I worked as a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit nurse for several years, most of that time as a travel RN. After four years of bedside practice, I choose to pursue a different direction and began work as a clinical research coordinator for the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in San Francisco, California. I am a member of several professional organizations, including the American Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau International and the Association of Clinical Research Professionals.

I am currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Health Policy degree at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). I chose this avenue because of the existing need for nurses in the policy arena. Nurses are needed not only as leaders in nursing policy, but also as policy specialists in all aspects of healthcare. Nursing as a profession maintains an elevated amount of political capital with the general public because of our historical emphasis on the protection of individuals and stand for social justice. Because of this public trust, nurses can be particularly effective leaders at a policy level, which is what my intention is.

We must not ignore the needs of the international community, especially in regards to healthcare allocation for those whose voices are not heard. I am concerned about access to life saving pharmaceuticals and investigational trials as a means of basic human rights. Having been a medical volunteer for several months in a clinic in Gambia, a small country in the western part of Africa, I recognize the need for basic necessities, such as malaria medication and antibiotics. While in Africa, our team provided basic supplies to the clinic and instructed them in regards to preventative healthcare measures. These measures were only band-aids and it was then that I appreciated the need for international policy change, realizing that I can be an integral piece of this equation. We must balance the needs of our society as an international community with the highest ethical standards for human research.

Almost every aspect of our highly technological healthcare system deals with pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Who better to watch out for public safety and social justice in regards to these issues than a nurse? After graduation in 2008, my plans are to pursue a career in government affairs and/or research with specific focus on the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. My interests lie in the transparency of clinical research and development of new medications as they pertain to public safety. This summer I will be interning at the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine and the Clinical Research and Policy Analysis Coordination Program) working on policy analysis regarding clinical trial transparency. My professional goal is to shape clinical trial guidelines as a policy leader. I hope to inspire other nurses to take on non-traditional leadership roles in healthcare, embracing our specialized skills and knowledge of the healthcare process and understanding these as market relevant forces. Couple this with our historical perspectives on social justice, and I believe that nursing as a profession can make several strides forward in arenas that we have otherwise not penetrated.