In the course of their jobs, nurses have to advocate for the patients and the profession. Nurses spend most of their time with patients, and thus they understand the strengths and limitations of the healthcare system from a broad perspective based on firsthand experience. However, nurses are rarely involved in the politics of policymaking. This paper discusses why and how nurses should be involved in making policies on healthcare provision.
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The Need for Advocacy
Advocacy plays an important role in the profession of nursing like any other aspect of healthcare provision. Given the constant interaction with nurses, patients develop trust towards them. As such, nurses become the best-suited individuals to promote the welfare of patients through advocacy. According to O’Rourke, Crawford, Morris, and Pulcini (2017), there are over 4 million nurses in the United States alone, and this number can play an indispensable role in advocating for patient needs and the nursing profession. Nurse advocates can be the determining factor for whether a patient will have quality care or access healthcare services through insurance coverage. Therefore, nurses should be involved in policymaking to ensure that healthcare outcomes are improved.
Despite the numerous challenges that nurses face in their quest to become advocates, they should ensure their active participation in the policymaking process. Some of the major challenges faced in the workplace are occasioned by poor decision-making at the policy level because the individuals involved have limited experience and knowledge of nursing (O’Rourke et al., 2017). These challenges affect service delivery to patients as nurses are impacted negatively. This assertion explains why nurses should be at the forefront in making decisions related to policy in healthcare matters.
Nurses should start thinking about policy as an issue that they can influence, as opposed to the current view of it being something that happens to them. If nurses do not take charge of the policymaking process, someone else without the requisite knowledge and skills will make the decisions. Ultimately, the challenges facing the nursing profession may not be addressed sufficiently. Therefore, nurses should use the existing avenues to advance advocacy within the profession and ensure that they offer solutions to issues that come with an evolving work environment and patient needs.
How Nurses can be Involved
One does not need to be a representative at Capitol Hill in order to act as a nurse advocate. By joining professional nursing organizations, nurses can influence policy decisions at any stage from local and state to federal levels (Water, Ford, Spence, & Rasmussen, 2016). Locally, a nurse can become an advocate by taking leadership positions in the healthcare system. Alternatively, nurses can contact the elected officials and present their proposals concerning healthcare policymaking. In some cases, nurses can join politics and run for local offices. At the state level, nurses can contact state representatives to air their views. Additionally, nurses can work as interns for elected officials or run for state office where they have a direct impact on decisions concerning healthcare.
Advocacy plays an important role in the process of making policies related to healthcare provision. However, for a long time, nurses have been avoiding this critical role due to numerous challenges associated with it. Nevertheless, nurses should occupy their rightful place and get involved in healthcare policymaking because they have the required experience and knowledge.
O’Rourke, N. C., Crawford, S. L., Morris, N. S., & Pulcini, J. (2017). Political efficacy and participation of nurse practitioners. Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice, 18(3), 135-148.
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Water, T., Ford, K., Spence, D., & Rasmussen, S. (2016). Patient advocacy by nurses – Past, present and future. Contemporary Nurse, 52(6), 696-709.