Ashley Apple, assistant professor and commissioner on government relations, VNA
Nursing and activism need not live in separate silos, says Ashley Apple, assistant professor and VNA's government relations commissioner. 'They actually go together, and should go together.'

When Ashley Apple (BSN ’18, MSN ’20, DNP ’21) was 16 years old, she chained herself to the front door of a department store

“At the policy table, legislators and policymakers are listening to nurses right now more than I think they probably ever have.”

Ashley Apple, activist, assistant professor, and commissioner on government relations, Virginia Nurses Association

to protest the sale of fur coats. “Activism has always been in my bones,” she said.“I’ve marched on Washington more times than I can count.”

As a graduate nursing student, she took a health policy class and had a revelation: her two loves—nursing and activism—need not live in separate silos. “They actually go together, and they should go together,” she said.

She is now a faculty member in the Accelerated Two-Year BSN program at the School, a practicing family nurse practitioner, and, in her work with the Virginia Nurses Association, works directly with state legislators to provide expertise on drafting legislation supporting nurses and public health initiatives. She also leads the Virginia Legislative Nursing Alliance, and regularly meets leaders from specialty nursing organizations across the commonwealth.

Apple describes herself as “an eternal optimist.” She believes the trauma of the pandemic has lit a fire in many nurses to become more involved in policy and advocacy work. “At the policy table, I will tell you that legislators and policymakers are listening to nurses right now more than I think they probably ever have,” she said, noting her return to Washington, D.C., for the National Nurses March May 12. “I suspect it’s going to be huge,” she said.

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Advice to future nurse leaders: Incorporate public health policy and critical analysis if you’re teaching students. We really need to make sure that the new generation of nurses is empowered to step up and be involved in policy from the start.


  • Tanya Thomas, clinical instructor and co-creator of UVA Health's COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies infusion clinic
  • Vickie Southall, award-winning assistant professor and veteran community health and pediatric nurse
  • Debra Barksdale, dean,  UNC Greensboro School of Nursing, mentor, and nurse scientist
  • Ashley Apple, assistant professor, pediatric nurse practitioner, and the Virginia Nurses Association's commissioner on government relations
  • David Simmons, clinical instructor and senior clinician, UVA Health Department of Nephrology, Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, trustee
  • Becky Compton, UPG's chief clinical officer and Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners' president
  • Dawn Adams, Virginia State Delegate and nurse practitioner