The nursing profession has been, and will continue to be, affected by health care initiatives introduced to state and national legislators. These concerns will have a direct effect on every individual that utilizes health care today. In order to fully protect the integrity of their profession, nurses have to be active in legislation.
Nurses were influential in instituting the Quality of Nursing Care Act of 2004, and the Safe Nursing and Patient Care Act of 2005. These bills covered issues such as “safe practice”, and they described the “safe” number of hours that a nurse should work. These and other pieces of legislature define the nursing profession; and nurses need to have a voice. However, many nurses might feel intimidated or unprepared.
Here are several strategies to enable nurses to be successful in legislation:
Gain knowledge and awareness - When pursuing a cause, be well-versed on all view points. Having evidence, especially data on efficiency, can be influential to the candidate.
Have a planned, strategic approach - When initiating a cause, have a strategic approach to make it more attractive for the candidate to endorse.
Make the issue profitable for the candidate - The candidate is more likely to listen to the health care issue if it is beneficial to his/her campaign.
Network with government officials - Establishing communication with local officials to voice your opinions related to nursing or health care can be influential and effective.
Make the time - Nurses are busy people. Many have families and other responsibilities that prohibit them from having the time to network with government officials.
Form strategic alliances - Form a coalition of nurses with similar interests and passions; there is power in numbers.
Choose the right venue - When lobbying, choosing the right setting is necessary. Perhaps plan to meet with a government official after he/she has toured your hospital; or when he/she is planning a visit to your town.
Choose the right time - Government officials need health care official’s votes. They might be more apt to consider a proposal during an election year. They need votes from everyone, especially nurses.
Support the future of nursing - Nurses are likely to become more involved in legislation if they realize the impact that it will have on their profession. Lobbying and networking with government officials is necessary to protect the integrity of the profession.
Remember to vote - This is a simple request, but by just voting, nurses can make a difference in a health policy issue, as well as make a difference in the election of a candidate.
The importance of a nurse's role in legislation should never be underestimated or dismissed. If nurses want to have a voice in health care issues and policies, they need to consider the impact they can make if they take part in the process.
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About the author: Jennifer Ward, BSN, RN is a medical- surgical nurse also trained in Oncology and Long-Term Care. Jennifer is dedicated to evidence-based practice and shared governance. She especially enjoys wound care, falls prevention, patient satisfaction, and documentation initiatives.
Presently, Jennifer is working on her certification as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner at the University Of Virginia School Of Nursing, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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