Discussion: The Role of the RN/APRN in Policy-Making

In the rapidly changing and developing health systems, registered nurses (RNs) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are responsible for providing quality and convenient care. This overarching objective requires them to play an active role in health policies to ensure that the subsequent health laws resonate with patient and community health priorities. According to Hajizadeh et al. (2021), the goal of health policies is to promote public welfare. Therefore, nurses should participate in the three stages of health policies: formulation, policy implementation, and reformation.

Opportunities for RNs and APRNs to Participate in Policy-Making

RNs and APRNs can shape health policies by actively participating in policy development, implementation, and reformation. According to Marymount University (2021), nurses can participate in policy-making processes by leveraging leadership skills, practicing patient advocacy, joining professional associations, and advocating for change. For instance, RNs and APRNs can utilize their experience, credibility, and trusted voice to provide suggestions necessary for influencing health policies (Marymount University, 2021). For example, nurses can lead community health initiatives, educate communities, and push for shared governance models.

Equally, joining professional associations like the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) can increase nurses’ opportunities for influencing health policies. According to Marymount University (2021), national nursing organizations provide multiple opportunities for influencing health policies, including letter-writing, meeting with legislators, contributing to political action committees, and networking chances that enable nurses to share information and pool their empirical evidence to provide credible and evidence-based contentions that shape policy trajectories. Although nurses advocate for patients and communities, they cannot entirely rely on workplace support to influence health policies. Rather, joining professional associations increase their chances of actively participating in policy-making processes since national nursing organizations campaign for legislation and policies that impact patients and nurses.

Barriers to Nurses’ Participation in Policy-making Processes

Although RNs and APRNs can influence health policies by incorporating their leadership and professional competencies into advocacy activities, institutional challenges act as the primary impediments to their active role in influencing policies. According to Turale & Kunaviktikul (2019), lack of organizational support, resources and time constraints, less job satisfaction, and a presence of ‘bureaucratic walls’ compromise nurses’ ability to influence health policies. For instance, many health organizations grapple with the nursing shortage, increased workload, and higher patient morbidity and mortality, limiting RNs’ and APRNs’ involvement in developing health policies. Although these considerations explain nurses’ limited participation in policy development, it is possible to address them by collaborating with lobbyists and joining state or national nursing organizations.

In the United States, nurse legislators can operate as lobbyists and advocates for policy changes. For example, it is possible to collaborate with Congresspersons and senators with medical backgrounds to influence policies at the state and national levels. Since the election of Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas as the first nurse elected to Congress in 1992, healthcare professionals can utilize this opportunity to run for office and play an active role in developing and implementing health policies.

Equally, it is possible to address barriers to effective participation in policy development by joining state and national professional organizations. For instance, many national nursing organizations have state chapters and societies whose goals are to shape nursing policy at the local level and grant nurses the opportunities to operate as advocates for quality care (Marymount University, 2021). Eventually, joining nursing organizations avails opportunities for nurses to connect with colleagues, share information, and provide suggestions to legislators by utilizing their empirical evidence to present stronger and credibility arguments for changes. Therefore, they provide nurses with the upper hand in influencing policies.

References

Hajizadeh, A., Zamanzadeh, V., Kakemam, E., Bahreini, R., & Khodayari-Zarnaq, R. (2021). Factors influencing nurses’ participation in the health policy-making process: A systematic review. BMC Nursing20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12912-021-00648-6

Marymount University. (2021, May 6). 5 ways nurses can shape policy. https://online.marymount.edu/blog/nursing-influence-on-health-care-policy

Turale, S., & Kunaviktikul, W. (2019). The contribution of nurses to health policy and advocacy requires leaders to provide training and mentorship. International Nursing Review66(3), 302–304. https://doi.org/10.1111/inr.12550

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