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Outdated policies can leave your organization at risk (Power DMS, 2020). Old policies may fail to comply with new laws and regulations (Power DMS, 2020). They may not address new systems or technology, which can result in inconsistent practices (Power DMS, 2020). Can you imagine a policy that still addresses whether you can bring in floppy disks from home or discusses the proper use of fax machines (Power DMS, 2020)? Yet there are probably policy manuals out there that still have this information in them (Power DMS, 2020). In the midst of policy review, nurses have the ability and experience to provide evidence-based information which in turn changes policies that need to be reviewed. With healthcare being everchanging, we must review policies which is one way we can help. Nurses’ influence on health policy protects the quality of care by access to required recourses and opportunities (Arabi et al., 2014). This is a new and important concept for nursing; however, research studies on policy influence of nurses in health care sector are lacking a basic conceptual understanding of what this concept represents (Arabi et al., 2014). Nurses have individual views on health care issues and influence health care policies in different ways (Arabi et al., 2014). With a common understanding of nurses’ policy influence as a concept, nurses will recognize the importance of policy making in the health sector and their influence on this process and also on patients’ outcomes (Arabi et al., 2014). At the state and federal level, nurses can get involved in policy and politics by joining a professional nursing organization (Welliver, 2021). Professional nursing organizations offer a vast amount of resources to help nurses to participate in the policy review. These organizations often have lobbyists that bring nursing issues to Capitol Hill (Welliver, 2021). Nurses can also write their state representatives regarding healthcare policy (Welliver, 2021). There are several reasons for the limited nursing participation in policy and politics (Welliver, 2021). Lack of awareness, inadequate skills, and little opportunity for involvement are just a few factors. Another barrier is the limited formal health care policy education in nursing (Welliver, 2021). Time and resources are further obstacles to the nursing profession’s participation in politics (Welliver, 2021). Additionally, studies show that nurses are not given sufficient support to generate the evidence needed to influence healthcare policy (Welliver, 2021). To better advocate for or communicate the existence of these opportunities, we must be involved in decision-making and the review of those decisions in our communities. But we first must allow ourselves to be a part of these processes. We often see ourselves as not educated enough or for a lack of better words good enough to be a part of these conversations, but we are. We are the ones who are at the forefront and we see it all. Having information like this gives us a seat at the table.
Arabi, A., Rafii, F., Cheraghi, M. A., & Ghiyasvandian, S. (2014, May). Nurses’ policy influence: A concept analysis. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research. Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4061635/
Welliver, M. (2021, March 10). The nursing profession’s potential impact on policy and politics. American Nurse. Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://www.myamericannurse.com/nursing-professions-potential-impact-policy-politics/#:~:text=At%20the%20state%20and%20federal,state%20representatives%20regarding%20healthcare%20policy.
Why it is important to review policies and procedures. PowerDMS. (2020). Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://www.powerdms.com/policy-learning-center/why-it-is-important-to-review-policies-and-procedures
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The Role of the RN/APRN in Policy Evaluation
The role of a nurse in policy evaluation is vital in policy-making. Nurses at all levels of expertise are “well versed in evaluating and analyzing the effectiveness of their assessment, planning, and implementation efforts which includes the critical step of evaluation” (Milstead & Short, 2017, p. 117). This makes the evaluation process valuable at the federal, state, and local levels as meaningful decisions are made; it ultimately reflects healthcare. Policy evaluation is defined as “principles and methods of examining the content, implementation, or impact of a policy” (Centers for Disease Control, 2022). Understanding what is working and what is not is vital to making the proper changes to benefit healthcare.
As a nurse, many opportunities exist to participate in policy review actively. Starting small by getting involved in the healthcare facility one is employed in is a start. This allows the nurse to see changes made fast and be a part of this change in the employed area. Being on a committee within the department is an easy leap to get started. “Nurse involvement in policies that affect them and their practice is fundamental to establishing good public policy” (Wichaikhum et al., 2019). During policy reviews, nurses must look at current evidence-based practice models to determine the need to change or update a policy.
Another opportunity to be involved in policy review is by being a member of a professional nurse’s organization such as the ANA. Meeting others within an organization and being able to follow one’s lead can be very instrumental. Reaching out to those in advanced practice on social media is another way to meet people with the same level of healthcare interest. Frontline nurses may believe it is impossible to create policy change at a national or even local level; many think that their role is too small to make a difference in health policy, but with this engagement front line nurses have made them ideal health policy advocates” (Anders, 2020).
Many challenges and barriers come with these opportunities. Nurses at the bedside “rarely take the time to view issues faced through the socio-political lens” (Anders, 2020). Many nurses work long hours and being involved in a committee at work consists in coming in on your day off. This sends a negative tone when working long hours. Nurses may also lack knowledge of the political process and how to get to critical political leaders. Also, nurses are very educated and opinionated, so nurses must be open to other experts in the field to problem solve as a team, as all opinions are not the same.
Being open-minded to learning a new role as an advocate nurse is the start to better advocate for our patients in the policy reviewing realm. Policy review improves the quality and safety of our patients as evidenced-based practice changes, updating how we manage health care changes. Gaining competency, whether in the health care organization currently working or branching out into professional organizations, is a step forward. It is a learning process, but we must take the first steps.
Anders, R. L. (2020). Engaging nurses in health policy in the era of covid‐19. Nursing Forum, 56(1), 89–94. https://doi.org/10.1111/nuf.12514
Centers for Disease Control. (2022). Overview of policy evaluation. https://www.cdc.gov/eval
Milstead, J. A., & Short, N. M. (2017). Health policy and politics: A nurse’s guide (6th ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Wichaikhum, O., Abhicharttibutra, K., Nantsupawat, A., Kowitlawakul, Y., & Kunaviktikul, W. (2019). Developing a strategic model of participation in policy development for nurses. International Nursing Review, 67(1), 11–18. https://doi.org/10.1111/inr.12571
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