Policy Issues Might Nurses Lobby Congress And Strategies Might Nurse Use To Have Their Voices Heard
Ways Nurses Can Shape Policy
1. Leverage Leadership Skills
As a nurse, you can lend your trusted voice, experience, and credibility to lead your community and significantly impact local governance.
Lead Community Health Initiatives
Nurses can lead community health initiatives such as disease screening events to raise awareness of important health issues or vaccination events to increase the uptake of vital public health resources. Because they form close relationships with their patients, nurses are often some of the best-suited care providers for community engagement work. They can leverage the trust they’ve built to foster goodwill and improve patient compliance with medical recommendations.
Educate Your Community
Nurses can provide a fact-based, informed perspective in community meetings and decipher clinical information for laypeople in their community. There are opportunities to provide public comment on the local government level at town halls and city council meetings, as well as on school boards and in public health departments.
Nurses not only translate scientific information; they also help distinguish between fact and fiction. This has been especially true during the pandemic. Nurses have been essential in dispelling myths and falsehoods about the virus and vaccines. They have helped raise awareness and clarify public health measures, including mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders.
Strengthen the Nurse Pipeline
Communities are only as strong and healthy as their nurse network. Some cities and states have suffered nurse shortages due to various nursing policy changes that withdrew funding from working and aspiring nurses. Nurse leaders can advocate for funding for nursing schools so there are enough institutions to train aspiring nurses; they can support student nurse tuition funding or loan forgiveness so aspiring nurses are not barred from the profession by financial constraints; and they can advocate for funding of local hospitals, clinics, and public health initiatives so registered nurses have the opportunity to serve the needs of their communities.
2. Practice Patient Advocacy
Nurses can bring their patient advocacy skills to the boardroom for policy transformation. A doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree opens doors to executive leadership roles within hospitals, health systems, and clinics. Nurse executives have the business and clinical perspective to shed light on how nursing policy directly influences patient outcomes and healthcare institutions’ bottom line.
Push for Shared Governance Models
Nurse leaders can promote shared governance models at their employer, which is a decision-making model that empowers nurses to make decisions about nursing practice and elevates their proximity to patients as a valuable asset in their ability to make good choices. By deputizing nurses, patients benefit because decisions about their care are made by professionals who are intimately aware of the details of their health and how those details may change from day to day or even hour to hour.
Optimize Working Conditions
Some other ways nursing leaders can advocate for patients include:
Advocating for the nurses who work on their teams to optimize staffing levels, ensure adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), and prioritize professional development, allowing them to focus on patient care rather than on-the-job challenges
Promote safe working conditions that benefit nurses and patients by protecting them from accidents and oversight
Advocate for full practice authority for advanced practice nurses (APRNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) so that patients living in underserved areas can have access to the high-quality care enjoyed by patients in densely populated and urban settings
Raise awareness of new research, technologies, and standards of care that offer patients better outcomes—whether they be more effective, more affordable, safer, or more in line with their personal preferences—and advocate for their adoption by healthcare institutions
3. Get Involved in Local Policymaking
As a nurse, you can seek out areas of nursing policy you’d like to influence and get involved with nursing organizations that provide information about participating in policymaking activities. Especially during the pandemic, nursing organizations have been instrumental in raising awareness of supply chain problems, equipment shortages, and the challenges of making care decisions during patient surges.
Marymount University’s Washington, D.C., location makes it ideal for students to access the national and state capitals. Throughout their education, Marymount students learn about the legislative process and the state of nursing policy. Nurses can meet with legislators during residency and gain the experience needed to become confident leaders and advocates.
Join a National Nursing Organization
You can join groups like the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), or any specialty-focused associations at the national level. These groups will have various opportunities for members to shape nursing’s influence on health care policy. From letter writing to meeting with legislators to contributing to political action committees, nurses can advance their causes in ways that allow them to utilize their knowledge and strengths.
Through these societies, nurses can connect with colleagues from different regions, share information, and pool their empirical evidence to present more robust, united arguments for the changes they hope to see in their industries, communities, and workplaces. These groups are on the front lines, campaigning for legislation that directly impacts the nation’s supply of nurses, nurse working conditions, health care accessibility, and patient outcomes.
Join a State Nursing Organization
Many national nursing organizations also have state chapters or societies whose goals are even more targeted toward shaping nursing policy in their specific state. Especially for NPs, these groups offer the opportunity to advocate for full practice authority, which is not a nationally accepted standard. These organizations may have internships or fellowships for nurses to learn about policymaking and gain experience.
Run for Office
Nurses can even run for public office, serving their communities in various elected positions. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas was the first nurse elected to Congress in 1992. She was followed by nurse-congresswomen Cori Bush of Missouri and Lauren Underwood of Illinois.
4. Encourage Change
Nurses can be changemakers by mentoring and sharing knowledge with nursing students to ensure the next generation has the skills and confidence to reform nursing policy.
Go Back to Your Roots
One place to start can be connecting with your alma maters—both your secondary and post-secondary schools. Nurses can reach out to their former teachers, professors, and program directors to see if there are any opportunities to guest-speak to students. Especially at the high school level, students are likely unaware of nursing’s influence on health care policy. Working with nurses can help them visualize how nurses participate in the policymaking process that isn’t always represented in books and the media.
Prepare Future Policy Influencers
Many national and state nursing organizations and societies offer mentorship programs for which seasoned nurses can volunteer. The need for nursing influence on health care policy is ever-present, so nurses must always be mindful of the next generation who will carry forward the work they’ve started. Mentoring younger or less-experienced nurses on how to lobby policymakers, campaign for public support, fundraise, and speak publicly are all essential aspects of advocacy mentorship. Your nursing association may even have a student or college chapter interested in hosting a working nurse for a Q&A or establishing a mentorship program.
Be a Mentor
At the same time, these organizations—and even your employer—offer opportunities to mentor new nurses on political advocacy and professional development. Nurse leaders can:
Help other nurses practice public speaking and communication skills to be comfortable participating in public discourse and boardroom discussions.
Train other nurses how to write letters to elected officials, fundraise and campaign for causes and nursing policies vital to them
Offer advice on maintaining a work-life balance.
Make introductions, connections, and recommendations to help qualified nurses get recognized for job opportunities
Help young nurses develop professional goals and a plan to achieve them—whether they become a nurse executive or return to school
Become a preceptor for the next generation of nurses
5. Pursue Higher Education
While nurses can participate in policymaking at any educational level, pursuing an advanced degree is an effective way to get a seat at the nursing policy table. Earning a DNP demonstrates nurses’ expertise at the highest level of practice, represents their commitment to advancing health outcomes, and distinguishes them as a thought leaders.
Registered nurses (RNs), NPs, and APRNs can all pursue DNP degrees. The DNP has been recognized by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) as “the most appropriate degree for advanced-practice registered nurses to enter practice.” Some schools offer online programs, which allow working nurses to achieve their doctoral degrees without putting their careers on hold.
Marymount University Online MSN to DNP Program
Marymount’s online MSN-DNP program is Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredited, and U.S. News & World Report ranked. Marymount gives students unparalleled access to the nation’s policymaking hub. Marymount is a Catholic university focused on inclusion, service to others, and equity. Students contribute to nursing’s influence on health care policy from day one through applied research and a comprehensive quality improvement project designed to make a difference in their respective communities.
With its online format, nurses can pursue a Marymount DNP from anywhere. Students receive mentorship from seasoned nurses and are prepared to assume leadership roles in the health care system. DNP candidates must hold a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree and an unencumbered RN license in their state.
Whether an RN or APRN, a DNP may be suitable for you if you want to deepen your knowledge of healthcare policy and systems and apply your ability to impact nursing policy.
Policy Issues Might Nurses Lobby Congress And Strategies Might Nurse Use To Have Their Voices Heard
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