Calling All Nurses: Become Politically Engaged

Stories - Bull HornNursing has been cited as one of the most respected professions in numerous literary pieces. That said, it is perplexing that nurses are not often regarded as being influential.

In my master’s program we discussed the goal of having 10,000 nurses serving on governing boards by the year 2020.

Nursing is evolving from solely providing direct patient care at the bedside to becoming more autonomous, and engaged in administrative and legislative aspects of the profession.

This is a topic of personal interest. However, it concerns me that many coworkers and peers do not seem to share the same perspective or interest.

Nothing is more discouraging than working with individuals that complain about their work environment in private, yet seem unwilling to voice their opinions publicly and advocate for the nursing profession.

Perhaps some nurses just lack the appropriate education regarding nurse advocacy and the health policy process.

Nurses can become politically engaged in several ways. One example is the initiation of new nurse education programs with emphasis on technical competence, critical thinking skills, and the ability to utilize decision models when providing patient care.

A second way for nurses to become involved in politics is by establishing relationships with legislators and appointed officials in order to gain credibility as a patient care advocate.

Additionally, nurses can provide an emotional link with legislation in order to assist in policy design.

A third example of political engagement is through the participation in internship programs in order to learn how to identify and handle constituent concerns, as well as maneuver through the bureaucracy.

A fourth idea is for nurses to advocate for the protection of the public, through the regulation of nursing practice, in the support of disease prevention for individuals, families, and communities.

Finally, nurses can act as program evaluators once policies and programs are implemented. By doing so, old problems are being addressed, new problems are being identified, and solutions are being considered.

The American Nurses Association maintains that a nurse protects, promotes, and optimizes health and abilities, prevents illness and injury, reduces suffering through the diagnosis and support of the human responses, and advocates for all patients, whether they be individuals, families, communities, or other populations.

It is important that nurses do not lose sight of the value of upholding patient safety and maximizing health outcomes as the role of nursing evolves. Doing so requires advocacy, activism, and influence.

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