Policy reforms are necessary for the health sector in improving health outcomes. Globally, healthcare and public health systems are managed through sound health policies. The policies guide the operations of health systems and directly affect the availability and provision of health care globally. Consequently, in enacting policy reforms, it is vital to consider the input of professional nurses who constitute the majority of health care workers nationally and internationally. Brokaw (2018) states that the United States alone has close to 4 million nurses. The need to involve nurses in health policymaking has further been necessitated by emerging issues such as shortage of nurses, cost-effective health care, chronic diseases, patient alertness, and the increasing technicality of the nursing profession.
Patient safety is a significant issue of concern in the current healthcare environment associated with medical errors. The majority of nurses join the profession out of the desire to help others. In conducting their activities, nurses constantly come into close contact with patients and their relatives in different instances. In the course of the interaction, nurses gain in-depth experience, which is vital in policy formulation. The information acquired can be influential in directing proper policy making and effecting successful changes in the existing healthcare framework. Nurses mostly put the interest of their patients ahead and will help develop strategies to foster patient wellbeing.
Nurses consider patients an essential interest group in development of safety programs that consider patients’ preferences. The preferences can be noted through direct communication when interacting with patients. Such an understanding will create a way for nurses to increase patient awareness in care provision. Moreover, professional nurses will pay attention to key areas in forming policies and develop worthwhile intervention plans in which limited resources are apportioned prudently. Nurses can also advice decision makers to consider establishing patient safety initiatives that are effective and relevant in the perspective of patients’ ethnic, cultural, economic, gender, and racial factors. Their insight is vital in helping to improve the quality of health care, strengthening the health care system.
Moreover, most of the policies enacted affect the nurses’ working environment and, subsequently, their professional work. To create a friendly work environment for nurses, it is essential to ensure that their opinion is considered in making health policies. Their involvement will foster an excellent working culture driven towards identifying important health factors and minimizing failures and accidents.
Advocacy is a crucial element in policy formulation for nurses. It involves representing the patients’ interests, defending their rights, and contributing to their decision-making. It extends to addressing systemic challenges in healthcare provision and administration. Therefore, nurses have the responsibility to represent patients’ interests at different levels, including policy formulation. Advocacy occurs almost every day as nurses attend to patients within different health care organizations. Through advocacy, nurses can demand enactment of policies intended to help patients, particularly in areas not addressed by existing policies. Professional nurses can put on the table actual patient experiences and advocate for sound policies for improving patient wellness. Besides, the present-day environment is characterized by constant technological and organizational changes and innovations in the provision of healthcare services. Nurses are the first people to note points of failure, and their participation in creating better policies cannot be ignored (Staebler et al., 2017). Nurses earn great trust from society if they effectively agitate for patients’ concerns. It is undoubtedly that nurses can help to improve the level of healthcare quality.
On the contrary, nurses have not wholly recognized their capacity when engaging in health policy. Also, professional nurses have not been involved sufficiently in policy formulation. The nurses have not embraced the responsibility of policy making despite their potential to firmly guide health policies. Rakow (2016) states that nurses can help improve health care delivery and advocacy for patients, their relatives, and the general populations by exercising their influence. There are many reasons why nurses have not taken up the responsibility entirely. Some reasons are complicated, while others vary from one jurisdiction to another. A few reasons include lack of resources, adequate support, and time. Also, nurses encounter bureaucratic tendencies that lock them out of the opportunity to state their policy fears openly. Some nurses are not confident and fall short of the required skills to propose meaningful policies due to inadequate and proper training in health care policy in nursing.
Despite the challenges, it is hard to sideline the importance of nurses in formulating and implementing healthcare policies. Considering their number in the medical profession, nurses should be at the forefront in crafting proper healthcare systems. Nurses need to equip themselves with enough understanding, skills, and attitudes to participate fully in making health policies. They have to undergo sufficient training on how to politically shape their proposals and gain access to adequate resources that they will use prudently. Skills in other areas, including teamwork, quality improvement, information, and technology, are essential in expanding the nurses’ knowledge base (Ferri et al., 2015). It is also essential for nurses to work together with other professionals in the medical field, such as physicians and other professionals. Nurses will have access to interdisciplinary mentorship and learn from others’ best practices to enact and effect good health policy initiatives.
Nurses can be engaged in policy formation across the different levels of governance, local or federal. The involvement requires good political understanding and health engagement with elected officials involved in legislation. Nurses need to be trained formally in politics and engage in activities with the officials at the local offices, city councils, or committees. Besides, a professional organization among nurses can help to lobby their concerns to respective authorities regarding important health care matters (Waddell et al., 2017). For instance, in the US, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has been widely involved in various policy activities. Nurses can also support one of their colleagues to run for political office to advance their interests from within.
Overall, nurses constitute a significant portion of all medical practitioners. Their numbers indicate the need for nurses to make health policies at all levels of governance. As a result of their immediate interaction with patients, nurses can propose effective programs intended to better care for all patients. However, most nurses shy away from the responsibility creating a need for nurses to be trained adequately in policymaking. Professional bodies can also help to push for particular policies crucial to offering people high-quality medical care. This will help consolidate and strengthen current positions of professional nurses in healthcare policy to prompt further development for the benefits of society.
Ferri P., Guerra E, Marcheselli L., Cunico L., Di Lorenzo R.(2015). Empathy and burnout: An analytic cross-sectional study among nurses and nursing students. Acta Biomedical, 86, 104–15.
Rakow, J.J. (2016). The Nursing Profession’s Potential Impact on Policy and Politics. American Nurse Today Blog. Web.
Staebler, S., Campbell, J., Cornelius, P., Fallin-Bennett, A., Fry-Bowers, E., Kung, Y.M., LaFevers, D. and Miller, J. (2017). Policy and political advocacy: A comparison study of nursing faculty to determine current practices, perceptions, and barriers to teaching health policy. Journal of Professional Nursing, 33(5), 350-355. Web.
Waddell, A., Adams, J.M. and Fawcett, J. (2017). Exploring nurse leaders’ policy participation. Web.