Influencing health care in the legislative arena
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The workshop, which took place in Alexandria, Virginia in March, covered a broad range of subjects, from the legislative process to health-care policy. The importance of nurses in the political process was a common thread.
The newsletter is presenting a series of articles on nurses’ impact on policy making and the legislative process to educate Viewpoint readers about the most pressing legislative issues of concern to nurses.
We must cultivate an understanding of the legislative process and hone our working knowledge of the political arena in order to effectively use our power and influence. Nurses have previously shown reluctance to do so. We’ve always only tried to take care of our patients, with little time or interest in the politics of particular organisations, and much less interest in the political events going on in our immediate surroundings.
While nurses can feel unqualified to participate in legislative activities, who better to advocate for patients than nurses? Why not with Congress? We’ve been patient advocates with physicians and managers, so why not with Congress?
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N2 – Nitrogen Nurses are well aware that the current health-care system is broken and in desperate need of reform. Many nurses who work in the real world of health care are motivated to take on some kind of activism in order to affect changes in legislation, rules, or regulations that regulate the broader health care system. This form of activism necessitates nurses going outside of their usual practice environment and into the less familiar world of policy and politics, a world in which many nurses lack confidence in their ability to function effectively. Policy advocacy success is contingent on having the strength, will, time, and resources, as well as the political skills required to ‘play the game’ in the legislative arena. This article explains the nurse’s position as a health-care policy advocate, identifies the power bases available to nurses in that role, addresses the legislative policy process, and offers strategies for successful action. To assist readers in learning more about shaping and affecting future health policy, a list of curated online tools is included.
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Most practicing nurses are unsurprised by the above-mentioned depressing statistics. Nurses are also the first caregivers to notice when and how the health-care system is unable to meet patients’ needs because they work with patients and their families. Nurses are in a unique position to see not just the effect of health policy on individual patients, but also the need for more substantive policy changes that resolve a wide range of health-related issues (Kendig, 2006). Nurses deal with problems like patient safety and satisfaction, access to care, clinical outcomes, and health inequalities on a daily basis. Nurses have the option of continuing to make do when feeling victimized by recent reforms (Mick, 2004) or motivating themselves to take action and find ways to bring about change in the health care system itself while dealing with these problems and other workplace issues that have wide consequences for entire groups of people.
When nurses decide to take on the role of policy advocate to reform the system, they must often leave their comfort zone and enter unfamiliar territory where laws and regulations affecting patient care are created, and battles for limited resources are negotiated and determined. Accepting this responsibility, as difficult and time-consuming as it may be, provides nurses with a rare opportunity to make a difference and the satisfaction of contributing to the realization of a better health-care environment for themselves and their patients. Advocacy brings a new dimension to their clinical practice, giving them more control over patient treatment and outcomes.
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Most evolutionary nursing pioneers go unnoticed at the time, but are later credited with influencing the art of caregiving. According to American Nurse Today, “these zealous figures apply confidence to their beliefs and advances in the field in remarkable ways by exposing new ideas to nurse practitioners and regulatory associations.” In the spirit of acknowledgment, here are ten people who have made significant contributions to nursing practice.
Florence Nightingale is known as the “Mother of Modern Nursing,” and no history of the practice is complete without mentioning her contribution. The visionary began her career by studying in Egypt, according to an article published by a leading health care resource provider. She went on to make history as a member of the British military during the Crimean War, where she invented the Polar Area Diagram, which became the basis for modern hospital sanitation practices.
During the American Civil War, Clara Barton gave up her career as a teacher to take on a more important role in supplying medical supplies. For her rescue efforts, Barton was dubbed the “Angel of the Battlefield,” and she went on to found the American Red Cross. She remained a member of the association until 1904.