As citizens of the United States of America we are all reminded of what arguably could be considered our civic duty; voting. However, as nurses we also have a duty to advocate for our patients and ourselves as nurses. One of the best and most effective ways this can be done is by becoming involved in policy-making. Policy-making happens on all levels such as our own hospitals, each state, and at a national level. Registered nurses (RN) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) can play a vital role in policy-making.
One of the ways RNs and APRNs can become involved in policy-making is to become a member of a nursing organization that advocates for, and is involved with policy making (Marymount University, 2021). Nursing organizations may focus on policy making at various levels. On the national level, the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) encourages nurses to become leaders in changing health care (American Organization for Nursing Leadership, 2021). “…AONL ensures the perspective and needs of nurse leaders are heard and addressed in public policy issues related to nursing and patient care” (American Organization for Nursing Leadership, 2021). Members benefit from education, mentor opportunities, and opportunities to work with policy makers (American Organization for Nursing Leadership, 2021). In addition to joining a nursing organization, RNs and APRNs can become involved with policy-making by becoming a representative in an organization or running for a local office (Marymount University, 2021). Many people may not consider the fact that nurses can hold a position in office (Marymount University, 2021). The first nurse to be elected into the United States congress was by Eddie Johnson in 1992 (Marymount University, 2021). There have been two other nurses since then that have held positions in congress (Marymount University, 2021). Nurses that run for office can advocate for both patients and nurses based of real experiences and can make a positive impact in healthcare (Marymount University, 2021).
Although nurses’ involvement in policy-making is crucial, there are some challenges that need to be addressed. One of the major challenges is the lack of knowledge and confidence on policy-making in general (Anders, 2020). Education on policies, government, and legalities is something that nurses may not receive education on during their schooling (Anders, 2020). If this education was incorporated early on in all nursing programs nurses may feel more confident on the topic (Anders, 2020). In addition, nurses who are interested in this topic can even pursue advanced education and degrees by enrolling in a focused program (Anders, 2020). Another challenge that nurses face is the lack of time due to work obligations (Anders, 2020). Many nurses have reported that they are already struggling to balance work and life responsibilities and do not have the time to commit to anything else (Anders, 2020). If nurses are interested are in becoming involved in politics and comities within their hospital, sufficient time should be allocated for this (Anders, 2020). Nurse managers and supervisors should recognize the importance and encourage nurses to become involved in policy-making at all levels including within their own facility (Anders, 2020). Nurse managers and supervisors could volunteer to cover a unit, or provide a resource nurse to allow for other nurses to become involved (Anders, 2020).
Advocating for nurses to become involved in policy-making is also just as important. Nurses that are in a management or supervisor position should be encouraging nurses to become involved and providing opportunities to do so (Anders, 2020). As mentioned previously, management can assure there is plenty of coverage to allow nurses the opportunity to participate (Anders, 2020). This could mean coverage for a few hours or for an entire shift if needed (Anders, 2020). Management needs to rationalize and advocate for this additional cost in the budget (Anders, 2020). Another way to communicate the existing opportunities that nurses have is to encourage nurse educators to incorporate this as part of their curriculum (Anders, 2020). This can be done by all nurse educators at any level from RN to APRN (Anders, 2020). Nurse educators that work in a hospital can also provide employees with education and information on becoming involved in various organizations or opportunities to work with policy makers (Anders, 2020). Nurses at level hold a responsibility related to policy-making from direct involvement to education opportunities. If more nurses become involved in policy-making the impact on the health care system can be profound.
American Organization for Nursing Leadership. (2021). American Organization for Nursing Leadership. AONL. https://www.aonl.org/about/overview
Anders, R. (2020, Oct 6). Engaging nurses in health policy in the era of COVID-19. Nursing Forum, 56(1), 89-94. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7675349/
Marymount University. (2021). 5 ways nurses can shape policy. Marymount University. https://online.marymount.edu/blog/nursing-influence-on-health-care-policy
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