Equipped with the knowledge on the process of policy development, nurses can now let themselves be involved in making policies concerning public health. However, nurses also need to understand first that the role of government and its agencies in healthcare “is shaped both by the needs and demands of its citizens and by the citizens’ beliefs and values about personal responsibility and self sufficiency” (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2006, p. 117).
As a professional in the medical field and being directly involved in the process of curing patients, nurses can represent the medical field and the patients when developing a policy that will benefit the health care system, the ailing patients, and the community. “Professional nurses working in the community know all too well about the health care problems they and their clients encounter daily, and it is through policy and political activism that both big picture and long term solutions can be developed” (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2006, p. 127).
Trotter Betts and Leavitt (2001) identified three levels of nurse’s involvement in policy development and politics as well. First is to become a nurse-citizen. Nurse-citizens execute essential civic responsibilities. They convey the issues about healthcare to public forums, community activities, and other public places of concern. The second level of involvement entails becoming nurse-activist. Nurse-activists are more politically active. They center their attention on issues such as giving expert healthcare to patients, working condition of nurses, and other related subject of health and work.
Moreover, nurse-activists use their political skills in dealing with these issues with the stakeholders. “They understand the necessity of collective political activity and collective political mentoring to advance the political skills of nurses” (Mason, Leavit, & Chaffee, 2002, p. 42). The last level of involvement that nurses may opt is becoming a nurse-politician. Aiming to make a difference, most nurses seeking an elective or a policy position have gone far to acquire the power and authority they hold.
Nursing-politicians are the ones who set the agenda primarily of health issue and direct the process of developing a policy up to its implementation. Whether a nurse chooses to become nurse-citizen, a nurse-activist, or a nurse-politician, he or she should hone his or her communication skills. In advocating health policy issues, using media (whether television, print papers, or broadcast radio) is the most powerful way, and nurses should be confident in using any form of communication.
Moreover, being strategic requires a good understanding of the healthcare system including the issues surrounding it and awareness on political processes, particularly, policy development. Being politically aware, nurses should also possess the skills of persuasion or the ability to motivate or influence other people (public people and legislators) so as to gain common support for the policy they are lobbying. These things could be done in the course of joint political networking and continuous learning.
Moreover, to keep abreast on the current legislative and public policy issue, Nagelkerk (2002) enumerated different strategies that could help nurses. First is to get the support of both political parties. This would be helpful especially when proposing a new health policy, for one could avoid conflict and opposing views. In community setting, nurses may seek the help of leaders, while in an institutional setting, they could ask for support from administrator, nurses, and other medical professionals.
When dealing with these people, it is important for nurses to highlight those parts of the policy where agreement exists so that the policy agenda could move forward. In addition, nurses should be neutral on any issue that is not part of their political agenda but must have a standpoint upon lobbying their policy. Once the policy is subjected to clarifications and analysis, nurses-policy makers should be willing to compromise. “If you can compromise and get some part implemented, it is usually easier to go back for the full program” (Nagelkerk, 2005, p. 300).
Nurses may also opt to join political activities such as voting; participating in political party; motivating the public to vote; establishing relationship with the appropriate policy makers; building channel or communication links for the discussion of different issues concerning public health and policy development; and developing an organization or a network of health and community professionals with mutual interest in health policy advocacy. Whether nurses decide to join politics or not, if they want to influence the development of health policy, they should possess a never-ending commitment to improve the health care system.
From this standpoint, they, as nurse-citizen, nurse-activist, or nurse-politician, can help in advocating changes and developing policies for the improvement of healthcare system. The key words are awareness, activeness, involvement, and commitment. References Cook, P. (2008, September). Influencing health policy: nurses can play an effective part in influencing health policy, if they develop the necessary skills and the confidence to use them. Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand. Retrieved March 24, 2009, from http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_hb4839/is_9_14/ai_n29475861? tag=rbxcra. 2. a. 44 Mason, D. , Leavit, J. & Chaffee, M. (2002).
Policy & Politics in Nursing Health Care (4th ed. ). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier. Nagelkerk, J. (2005). Starting Your Practice: A Survival Guide for Nurse Practitioners. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier. Stanhope, M. & Lancaster, J. (2006). Foundations of Nursing In The Community: Community-Oriented Practice. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier. Trotter Betts, V. & Leavitt, J. K. (2001). Nurses and political action. In K. Chitty (ed. ), Professional Nursing: Concepts and Challenges (3rd ed. ). Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders. Walt, G. (1994). Health Policy: An Introduction to Process and Power. London: Zed Books.