A traditional view of the nursing profession focuses primarily on bedside care. Today, the nursing field is so much more expansive than that. While nurse-to-patient interactions are crucial, there is another patient-first component nurses can actively contribute to: health policy.

In Nevada State University’s online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, nurses learn both foundational nursing skills and knowledge in health policy, including the factors that influence developments in nursing and healthcare.

What Is Health Policy?

Health policy is a multidimensional tool designed to improve public health and patient outcomes through legislation, guidelines, and initiatives. It addresses a wide array of public health concerns, from controlling tobacco use and limiting air pollution to improving mental health services and the overall healthcare system. Policymaking aims to provide effective healthcare services while minimizing costs and maximizing accessibility and quality.

Health Policy Examples

Examples of health policies include the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which seeks to provide more Americans with access to affordable healthcare, and the Tobacco Control Act, aimed at reducing tobacco use, particularly among youth. Environmental policies like Clean Air Act amendments also indirectly influence public health by controlling pollutants.

Moreover, initiatives like Healthy People 2020 — and now the updated Healthy People 2030 — aim to set measurable objectives related to health policy to improve communities’ well-being. Healthy People 2030 highlights the importance of addressing social determinants of health (SDOH), gaining a greater understanding of leading health indicators (LHI), and why evidence-based resources are critical in addressing public health priorities.

Benefits and Challenges of Health Policies

There are both benefits and challenges concerning health policy development. Nurses who aspire to advocate for change in healthcare must understand their impacts. Positive aspects of health policy include the following:

  • Improvement in public health. Successful health policies can lead to better public health outcomes.
  • Resource allocation. Policymaking helps in the optimal utilization of available resources.
  • Health equity. This aims to reduce healthcare disparities among different demographics.

Despite these benefits, certain challenges can impede health policy development, such as:

  • Implementation. Execution can be difficult due to political and administrative hurdles.
  • Resource limitations. Funding and resources can be major constraints.
  • Public opposition. Policies like vaccination mandates can face public backlash.

How Can Nurses Help Shape Health Policy?

Nurses play a critical role in shaping health policy due to their firsthand experience in healthcare settings. Their perspectives can provide invaluable insights into the healthcare system’s strengths and weaknesses. The following represents a few ways nurses can contribute to shaping health policy:

  • Advocacy. Nurses can advocate for patient rights and improved healthcare services. They can lend their voice to causes like mental health awareness, disease prevention, and healthcare accessibility.
  • Research and data collection. Nurses are often involved in collecting data that can be crucial for policy decisions. By engaging in research and sharing findings, nurses can influence policymakers.
  • Policy development. Skilled nurses can directly participate in drafting policies or act as consultants. Their practical experience ensures that policies are both efficient and humane.

Ways to Become More Aware of Health Issues and Policy Endeavors

Nurses occupy a unique position that allows them to bridge the gap between patient care and policy formulation. However, to leverage this advantage, they must stay well informed about the changing landscape of health issues and relevant policies. Below are some detailed approaches to increase awareness and involvement in these crucial areas:

  • Staying updated on literature and news. A nurse can subscribe to academic journals and newsletters and follow trustworthy news sources that focus on health and medical topics. This routine ensures that they are up-to-date on emerging trends, breakthroughs, and policy shifts in healthcare.
  • Participating in seminars, workshops, and policy briefings. Engaging in educational platforms like seminars and workshops provides nurses with a hands-on understanding of existing challenges and prospective changes in healthcare policy. These platforms also offer networking opportunities, enabling nurses to connect with key stakeholders and experts in the field. Policy briefings, often organized by government agencies or research organizations, provide critical insights into specific issues under legislative consideration.
  • Joining professional organizations. Organizations like the American Nurses Association (ANA) provide resources on health policy and present avenues for active participation in advocacy efforts. Membership in such organizations usually comes with access to exclusive webinars, publications, and conferences focused on healthcare policies and practices.
  • Engaging in community outreach programs. Community work allows nurses to understand health issues at the grassroots level, enriching their perspective on the prioritization of policies. Whether it’s through free clinics or educational talks, direct community engagement can provide valuable insights.
  • Fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. Health policy is not solely a nursing issue but also a collaborative effort that involves multiple sectors like public health, law, and economics. By engaging in interdisciplinary conversations, nurses can get a more rounded view of the complexities that shape health policy. This holistic approach can make them better advocates for change.

By employing a mix of these strategies, nurses can arm themselves with the knowledge and connections needed to play a more active role in shaping health policy, thereby contributing to better public health outcomes.

Role of Nevada State University’s Online RN to BSN Program in Promoting Health Policy

Nevada State University’s online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is crucial in preparing nurses to actively engage in health policy.

One of the course offerings, Engaging in Leadership and Health Policy, aims to instill an awareness of the “societal, economic, political and professional” events that impact contemporary nursing. It also discusses how resource management, organization, and allocation function in an evolving healthcare delivery system.

Nurses as Key Intermediaries Between Healthcare Practice and Policy

In a world increasingly driven by policies and regulations, nurses cannot afford to be passive recipients of change. They must act as intermediaries between healthcare practice and policy, using their unique perspectives to shape more equitable health systems.

Programs like the online RN to BSN from Nevada State University equip nurses with the necessary skills and knowledge to take up this mantle of responsibility effectively.

Learn more about Nevada State University’s online RN to BSN program.