19Jan 2022 by
There are many ways that RNs and APRNs can get involved with policymaking. Nurses and other healthcare workers have been on the frontlines of an unprecedented situation with Covid-19. The past two years have led to significant opportunities to learn from this pandemic, to find better ways of doing things in practice, and contributing to policy-making through evidence-based research and empowerment strategies (Hajizadeh et al. 2021, p. 2). Despite the development of vaccines, all signs point that Covid-19 will be around for the foreseeable future. Nurses have the chance to help change policies that will dramatically affect hospital decisions for decades to come. Legislators and other politicians do not see often see what daily life is like in a hospital. As healthcare professionals, we can make a difference by helping change policies to make work more efficient and keep legislation up to date. Salvage and White (2019) state that in order to shape the present and future of our profession, nurses must be active rather than passive, and influence and lead policy (Salvage & White, 2019, p. 148). The best way to help influence policy is to be directly involved. For instance, nurses can apply for internships to work directly with elected officials. Who better to talk to when looking at passing legislation than the people that these laws will directly affect? Being a nurse advocate is not only for our patients, it is for the advancement of the profession as a whole.
Nurses make up one of the largest factions of healthcare workers in the entire world. For this very reason, it is paramount for leaders to step in and advocate for our patients and for the policies that we abide by. One of the best ways to get involved with policy-making is to join various nursing associations. These associations provide a large platform that allows members to share their viewpoints with their peers. With constituent backing, it is much easier to grab hold of legislators ears and pursue policy changes. Many challenges come with policy changes. First, policy changes take considerable amounts of time and resources. However, although something may take time this should not deter nurses from knowing they can make a difference. Another challenge with policy changes is that they often take large amounts of monetary support. That is why joining nursing associations is so vital. Government funding can help aid the progression and advancement of new policies from becoming law.
Another challenge about policy changes is that many nurses have a lot to say; however, they do not know how to get started about voicing their opinions. I feel that a health policy class should be required for all RN programs across the nation. This requirement would ensure that new nurses are equipped with the knowledge of how to lobby for policy changes. Furthermore, it could serve as a time for legislators to visit nursing programs and connect with them one on one. This would be extremely beneficial and would further enhance the symbiotic relationship between nurses and legislators. If legislators came to hospitals and met with RNs and APRNs I think that many good ideas would arise. Many times the views of upper management do not adequately reflect what is occurring on patient floors each day. Nurses would do a fantastic job in pointing out where funds should be allocated, what equipment is needed, where money is wasted, and identifying where the core components and activities of implementation for a specific policy are (CDC). These would all be extremely beneficial in helping legislators learn about current life working as a nurse in the hospital. As time progresses, I hope that nurses understand how much collective power the profession has and what can be done in a relatively short amount of time.
Policymaking is a long process and having input from people who are involved with the policy changes is imperative. Nurses and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses should be informed and involved with healthcare policies because it can affect the way we care for patients. In America, being involved in healthcare policy is something that is not talked about much as a nurse, but this is not the case in other countries. According to the Code of Nursing Ethics in Korea, nurses are obligated to participate in improving and developing nursing policies and health care systems (Han, N., 2020). The desire to be involved in policy-making often starts when a nurse is exposed to problems in the workplace, and they can see firsthand the changes that need to be made. Social responsibility is felt, and the need for change is realized. One way Registered Nurses and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses can become involved in policymaking is to join Nursing Associations. I live in Florida where we have a division of Florida Nursing Association that is delegated to being involved in Legislation. Listed on the website are dates of delegation meetings nurses can attend to learn more and become involved (Florida Nurses Association, 2021).
Policy changes also happen on a smaller scale such as in the workplace. This is a good way to become involved that seems not so overwhelming. Each facility I have worked at as a Registered Nurse followed legislative policy but also had workplace policies that were for just that facility. Getting involved in these policy changes may be easier to become involved in but just as important and can make a positive change in your job. Attending management meetings and voicing concerns with solutions are manageable ways to implement policy changes. Nurses not only are well prepared to provide direct care to persons and families but also act as change agents in the work environments in which they practice and the states/nations where they reside (Milstead, J.A., & Short, N.M., 2019, p 4).
Policies are there to protect nurses and the patients we care for. Many nurses do not think of the importance of policies or that there is anything that can be done to change them. Nurses need to share their unique perspectives with bureaucrats, agency staff, legislators, and others in public service regarding what nurses do, what nurses and their patients need (Milstead, J.A., & Short, N.M., 2019, p 9). Taking this healthcare policy course has opened up my eyes to the changes that can be made and the process that needs to be followed to see changes. I feel all nurses should take an introduction to healthcare policy course to better understand how policies are made.