Speaking out and speaking the truth
Justin Gill, DNP, ARNP, RN, a Washington State Nurses Association member, is a health policy leader grounded by his day-to-day work in an urgent care clinic in Everett, Washington. Working with patients “helps me realize that this is what really matters,” he said.
Early in Gill’s career as a nurse practitioner (NP), he successfully developed an initial plan for a patient who had symptoms of colon cancer but neglected screening because she lacked health insurance. “It reinforced the fact that it didn’t matter if we have the best colonoscopy technology…if people can’t access it or have a fear of accessing it due to cost, then their health is actually jeopardized,” Gill said.
Both his clinical and advocacy work impact his third role — lecturer at the University of Washington Bothell School of Nursing, where he highlights how health policy directly affects bedside care. “If patients don’t have insurance, or if nurses don’t have access to PPE [personal protective equipment], that all comes from some policy level, and finding a way for them to find their voice helps amplify my overall goal, which is to get nurses more involved in legislative and clinical advocacy,” he said.
On an advocacy level, Gill worked on a campaign that led to the introduction of legislation in Washington requiring that insurance companies reimburse NPs who own their practice at the same rate as physicians. As chair of the legislative/health policy council of the Washington State Nurses Association, he worked to strengthen safe staffing legislation. He also has served as a trustee on the ANA Political Action Committee Board.
As a health policy leader and a clinician, Gill educates patients who have been misinformed about COVID-19 and vaccines and participated in the COVID Vaccine Education and Equity Project, which aims to build confidence in authorized vaccines. (covidvaccineproject.org).
Gill tells his patients, “You’ve come here to trust me with your care, and I’m going to give you the best care available, which means telling you the truth and not telling you necessarily what it is that you want to hear.” Gill also spoke recently to CBS News, NBC News, and MSNBC about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Seeing a positive change in a patient’s health is one of Gill’s most rewarding experiences. “My ability to have an impact on that person’s life is just as important as my ability to impact a law that passes at the congressional level or the state level, or my ability to advocate for legislation that would help that patient in the long run.”