She decided to take a chance and was surprised when it paid off.
Mikayla Armitage of Neligh, who works as a full-time medication aide at The Willows Assisted Living center, said she saw a paper in the staff room that caught her eye in February. It was an application to attend a congressional briefing on long-term health care in Washington, D.C. May 19-22.
"I thought, 'Why not give it a shot?'" she said. "A few weeks later, I received word that I was one of two scholarship winners in the state. I was shocked and super excited to go be a voice for our residents."
Armitage and Jayne Prince, The Willows administrator, boarded a plane in Omaha on May 19, met up with some others from Nebraska and began their journey.
"Once everyone got settled in, we went out as a group for a great meal," she said. "It was so nice because they all wanted to make sure we got to see as much as possible, so we walked to the restaurant a few blocks away."
On May 20, Armitage didn't have any meetings until the afternoon so she was able to do a little bit of sightseeing.
"We walked to the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial," she said. "It was so nice because while we were at the WWII Memorial, they were wheeling in a bunch of veterans and it was an honor to shake their hands and thank them for their service."
After seeing a few sights, Armitage attended a session for "first timers” to explain what to expect at the congressional briefing and then headed for the large ballroom to attend the briefing.
"We heard from Gov. Mark Parkinson President & CEO of AHCA/NCAL who started the session out," she said. "We heard from many other speakers, which included members of the organization and different Representatives from other states. The main speaker who I enjoyed listening to was Congressman Paul Ryan. I also liked keynote speaker Charles Krauthammer, a Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post columnist, who spent over 25 years covering the political scene in Washington."
The following day, Armitage was off to another briefing session.
"Once again I listened to many speakers, and this time, Senator Ron Wyden was great to listen to," she said.
Armitage said they were scheduled to meet with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry next; however, he was unable to meet with them. Patty Sheetz, the Health Care Legislative Assistant, met with them instead.
"This meeting was with our entire group so it was great to listen and learn so I knew what to expect with the rest of the meetings," she said. "Our main talking points were on observation stays to get the 3-day inpatient hospital stays to count to be admitted to a skilled nursing facility under Medicare Part A, also hospital readmission, therapy caps, and Medicare cuts."
Armitage was able to meet with Senator Deb Fischer next.
"It was an honor to meet her and she listened to us completely," she said. "(Fischer) was super surprised to find out that I was a direct care staff and wanted to hear from me."
Armitage ate lunch at The Capitol Hill Club where she met people from all over the United States. After lunch, she met with Congressman Adrian Smith.
"It was once again a great experience and I wasn’t shy anymore and spoke on different concerns and issues," Armitage said. "(Smith) listened and asked questions, which was a wonderful experience. When I was done with the meetings, I realized I made it through it without a problem. My voice was heard and I spoke out for Northeast Nebraska and hope I made a difference."
There was time for more sightseeing in the afternoon, so they took a Big Bus Tour.
"It took us by so many historical sites and buildings I even saw The White House at a distance!" she said. "My trip was complete when I saw the Pentagon as we were flying out! This experience was something I never dreamed of and I am honored to have been chosen."