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Posted: February 13th, 2024

Opportunities that exist for RNs and APRNs to actively participate in policy-making

Opportunities that exist for RNs and APRNs to actively participate in policy-making
Word cloud generators have become popular tools for meetings and team-building events. Groups or teams are asked to use these applications to input words they feel best describe their team or their role. A “word cloud” is generated by the application that makes prominent the most-used terms, offering an image of the common thinking among participants of that role.
What types of words would you use to build a nursing word cloud? Empathetic, organized, hard-working, or advocate would all certainly apply. Would you add policy-maker to your list? Do you think it would be a very prominent component of the word cloud?
Nursing has become one of the largest professions in the world, and as such, nurses have the potential to influence policy and politics on a global scale. When nurses influence the politics that improve the delivery of healthcare, they are ultimately advocating for their patients. Hence, policy-making has become an increasingly popular term among nurses as they recognize a moral and professional obligation to be engaged in healthcare legislation.
To Prepare:
Revisit the Congress.gov website provided in the Resources and consider the role of RNs and APRNs in policy-making.
Reflect on potential opportunities that may exist for RNs and APRNs to participate in the policy-making process.
By Day 3 of Week 8
Post an explanation of at least two opportunities that exist for RNs and APRNs to actively participate in policy-making. Explain some of the challenges that these opportunities may present and describe how you might overcome these challenges. Finally, recommend two strategies you might make to better advocate for or communicate the existence of these opportunities to participate in policy-making. Be specific and provide examples.
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Word cloud generators have become popular tools for meetings and team-building events. Groups or teams are asked to use these applications to input words they feel best describe their team or their role. A “word cloud” is generated by the application that makes prominent the most-used terms, offering an image of the common thinking among participants of that role.
What types of words would you use to build a nursing word cloud? Empathetic, organized, hard-working, or advocate would all certainly apply. Would you add policy-maker to your list? Do you think it would be a very prominent component of the word cloud?
Nursing has become one of the largest professions in the world, and as such, nurses have the potential to influence policy and politics on a global scale. When nurses influence the politics that improve the delivery of healthcare, they are ultimately advocating for their patients. Hence, policy-making has become an increasingly popular term among nurses as they recognize a moral and professional obligation to be engaged in healthcare legislation.
To Prepare:
Revisit the Congress.gov website provided in the Resources and consider the role of RNs and APRNs in policy-making.
Reflect on potential opportunities that may exist for RNs and APRNs to participate in the policy-making process.
By Day 3 of Week 8
Post an explanation of at least two opportunities that exist for RNs and APRNs to actively participate in policy-making. Explain some of the challenges that these opportunities may present and describe how you might overcome these challenges. Finally, recommend two strategies you might make to better advocate for or communicate the existence of these opportunities to participate in policy-making. Be specific and provide examples.

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Nursing’s Expanding Role in Healthcare Policy
Introduction
The nursing profession has evolved tremendously since its inception. No longer confined to direct patient care roles, nurses are increasingly recognizing their ability to positively influence policy on a larger scale. By engaging in the political process and helping shape legislation, nurses can advocate for systems that optimally support quality care, access, health equity, and patient outcomes. This paper will explore opportunities for registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to participate in policymaking, barriers they may face, and strategies to strengthen advocacy efforts.
Opportunities for Participation

Several avenues exist for nurses to actively engage in the policy process. At the state level, many state nursing associations maintain government affairs or advocacy committees focused on pending healthcare bills (American Nurses Association, 2020). These committees monitor legislative activities, provide feedback to lawmakers, and sometimes testify at hearings on key issues. Nurses can join their state association to participate in these committees. Additionally, all 50 U.S. states and several territories have boards of nursing that regulate nursing practice and education standards (National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 2021). RNs and APRNs are encouraged to serve in appointed positions on these boards, bringing their clinical expertise to support regulatory decision-making.
At the national level, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and specialty nursing organizations also maintain advocacy teams focused on federal healthcare policies and budgets (American Nurses Association, 2020). Nurses can become ANA members and engage through various grassroots activities organized by these groups. For example, the Oncology Nursing Society actively mobilizes members to contact their representatives in Congress regarding cancer research funding (Oncology Nursing Society, 2022). Participating in these types of organized advocacy campaigns allows nurses to easily make their voices heard on priority issues.
Barriers to Participation

While opportunities exist, some barriers may deter nurses from policy engagement. Heavy clinical responsibilities and time commitments present challenges, as advocacy work requires substantial hourly commitments that are difficult for many to balance (Buresh & Gordon, 2013). However, modern advocacy groups increasingly offer flexible remote participation options through virtual hearings and digital communications with lawmakers (American Nurses Association, 2020).
Lack of experience navigating the policy process and communicating with legislators could also dissuade less politically-inclined nurses (Buresh & Gordon, 2013). But training resources abound – the ANA provides webinars, toolkits and mentorship programs to build core advocacy competencies (American Nurses Association, 2020). Additionally, many state and national nursing organizations pair novice advocates with more experienced “mentor nurses” for guidance (Oncology Nursing Society, 2022).
Strategies for Strengthening Advocacy
To boost participation rates and strengthen the nursing voice in healthcare policy, targeted strategies should be employed. At the academic level, nursing programs could integrate more education on health policy, politics, and advocacy best-practices into standard curricula (Buresh & Gordon, 2013; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2010). This helps normalize the concept of nurses as agents of positive system-level change.
Professional nursing organizations also need robust communications highlighting the various “on-ramps” available for nurses based on their interests, schedules, and experience levels (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2010). For example, emphasizing options like joining email advocacy networks or participating in single-issue campaigns at minimal time commitments may appeal to time-strapped nurses. Making engagement appear accessible can boost participation.
Additionally, nursing leaders should promote policy-focused leadership pathways and mentorship programs within institutions (Buresh & Gordon, 2013; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2010). For example, designating chief nursing officers, nurse managers or doctorally-prepared “policy fellows” to guide advocacy efforts helps develop the next generation of nurse influencers. Leading by example and cultivating future nurse advocates strengthens the collective voice.
Conclusion
As one of the largest healthcare professions worldwide, nursing is well-positioned to impact policy on a global scale. By recognizing their ability to influence systems supporting optimal patient care, nurses can fulfill their advocacy duty on a higher level. While barriers exist, opportunities abound for RNs and APRNs to actively shape legislation through organized nursing associations. Targeted strategies to strengthen education, communication and leadership development around advocacy can help maximize nursing’s role in healthcare policy for years to come.
References
American Nurses Association. (2020, March). Nurses on boards: ANA’s advocacy in action. https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/workforce/nurse-staffing/nurses-on-boards/
Buresh, B., & Gordon, S. (2013). From practice to policy: Expanding the nursing policy role. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 18(3). https://doi.org/10.3912/OJIN.Vol18No03PPT01
National Council of State Boards of Nursing. (2021). About NCSBN. https://www.ncsbn.org/about.htm
Oncology Nursing Society. (2022). Advocacy. https://www.ons.org/advocacy
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2010). Strengthening nursing’s voice in health care policy. Issue Brief. https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2010/01/strengthening-nursing-s-voice-in-health-care-policy.html

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