In the modern world, the role of nursing continues to evolve in the field of healthcare. Before nurses’ education started to change, their position in healthcare organizations did not have the same weight that it does now. Nurses, especially those with a Master’s and Doctor’s degree, advocate for themselves and their patients and actively participate in the political debates.
Thus, it becomes crucial for new graduates of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program to be prepared to enter the world as professionals in clinical practice, research, and advocacy. DNP leaders are a vital part of healthcare and nursing advocacy – they possess a range of skills to not only treat patients but also analyze the healthcare delivery systems, patient safety issues, population health concerns, and other major problems in the industry. Thus, their role in political advocacy cannot be undermined as well, and their in-depth understanding of the field has to be considered when creating policies.
Therefore, one should prepare to become an advocate for other people and the nursing profession. For this reason, a development plan is necessary to uncover one’s strengths and weaknesses and determine the path for personal and professional development. Using the lens of political competencies allows the nurse to see the steps that one has to take to improve skills that would be the most useful in legislative advocacy.
The purpose of this essay is to explore the role of nursing expertise in the improvement of health policy and conduct a self-reflection to lay the basis for a strategic plan. Furthermore, the paper will outline the actions needed to address the nursing advocate performance areas and develop a plan for future political competency improvement.
Nursing Expertise & Health Policy Advocacy
First of all, to understand why this plan is beneficial to DNP graduates, it is vital to explore the role of nurses in developing health policy. Health policy refers to the creation of projects and programs that should positively influence the health of societies (Davoodvand, Abbaszadeh, & Ahmadi, 2016). Such a policy can define priorities for treatment, identify and address specific issues for populations, and present a vision for the future of health. It is clear that health policy requires the participation of medical professionals for its development.
However, nurses may be overlooked in this discussion, as physicians are usually regarded as primary care providers in the United States (Oliveira & Tariman, 2017). Nonetheless, as nurses’ positions in the field started to evolve in the previous decades, so did their participation in advocacy. In contrast to other health providers, nurses maintain direct contact with patients that leads to the establishment of strong nurse-patient relationships. Additionally, the foundation of nursing care is patient-based, which leads to the recognition of issues and factors that may lie outside of the conventional treatment approaches.
As a result, the presence of nurses in discussions of new health policy is essential to the development of holistic ideas that acknowledge health care as a fundamental human right. According to the American Nurses Association ([ANA], n.d.), the unique frontline place of nurses in healthcare is complemented by their increasing autonomy and growing skillset. Therefore, nurses should learn how to participate in the creation of the modern health care environment.
The process of making healthcare policy without nursing expertise also presents a risk of neglecting this professional level from new projects. Although Congress makes laws, various governmental organizations interpret the new regulations and create systems that affect nurses and other medical workers (ANA, n.d.). For example, such agencies as the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) impact the ways in which elements of the health care system interact. Through political action, nurses help to elevate their place in the industry, continuously improving their scope of practice policy as well as the quality of care and organizational environment.
Another factor that elevates the role of nurse advocates in the discussion of health policy is their recognition of social determinants’ impact on people’s wellness and health. An individual’s wellbeing greatly depends on the surrounding environment and background. Such aspects as one’s socioeconomic status, employment, education, living conditions, and relationships influence both physical and mental health.
These factors also determine people’s access to care, especially in areas where financial struggles lead to the rising issue of health disparity (Artiga & Hinton, 2018). Through their education and fundamental principles, nurses recognize the interconnectedness of people’s lives and their health. This allows them to examine health and non-health policy to determine the links between them and be better advocates for the population.
Self-Reflection on the Strength & Strategy Plan
As a nurse leader, I already possess some skills that can aid me in achieving political competency. First, I can describe my practical skills in treating patients as well as a considerable amount of theoretical knowledge in nursing and health care delivery. These factors influence the decisions that I make in my daily work. Still, they also inform my policy creation as one cannot suggest a new intervention without knowing about the current best practice. Therefore, continuous learning is a part of developing as a nursing practitioner and advocate.
Second, I can present my leadership and mentorship skills as a foundation for the strategic plan. I believe that I am a good mentor, and I help my colleagues to advance in their knowledge of the career. Through personal example and conversation, I promote continuous learning and aim to show that constant growth is a pillar of nursing expertise. Moreover, I always examine the environment in which all nurses and other staff members engage with each other and patients to see whether any changes and improvements are needed.
This also involves my critical and creative thinking – some issues are not evident without finding their root cause, and other problems require an unusual solution or a new perspective. I also strive to motivate my colleagues to inspire them toward self-improvement and to create a trusting environment that encourages better performance without punitive measures. These skills can assist me in becoming an advocate with a strong voice in the community and connections that are built on mutual respect and trust.
Next, I should mention my goal of fostering or maintaining a collaborative environment wherever I practice. I do not hesitate to introduce myself and establish the first connection with people. I always advocate for shared decision making, inviting the contribution from colleagues and listening to their perspectives with an open mind. Discussions are vital for policy creation as they provide a platform for communities to describe their concerns and hopes.
At the same time, an open dialogue is a way to address any misunderstandings and resolve conflicts in their early stage (Melo et al., 2017). I firmly believe that a lack of collaboration undermines people’s individual contributions as it does not provide a way of perfecting each other’s ideas. Therefore, this skill should help me generate new policy ideas that are motivated by real concerns of the community and population that I serve.
Finally, such strengths as effective communication strategies, persuasion, and persistence have to be mentioned. I use a variety of tactics to engage in meaningful discussions with other people. The strategy of active listening allows me to connect with people and collect information in a way that motivates people to share their opinion (Warner, 2003). I also employ non-verbal communication to maintain the mood of each conversation and show that I am fully engaged and empathetic to others.
The provision of feedback is also one of my strengths – I am not afraid of asking follow-up questions, sharing my view of the problem, and empowering people through positive comments. These techniques are vital for discussing health policy and gaining support. Nonetheless, these skills are not always effective in persuading people toward an agreement. Therefore, I employ peer-reviewed evidence and statistics to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the problem and its solution. Lastly, I know that all initiatives can be unsuccessful, making persistence another crucial skill that nurses have to possess.
Competency Development Plan
The skills described above may not be enough to become a DNP leader with political competency. One has to engage in the political sphere of nursing advocacy actively and continuously acquire new skills as well as monitor the current issues and problems in healthcare. In the area of communication, I have to continue advocating for shared-decision making and advancing the dialogue between colleagues. Furthermore, I need to review useful frameworks for interaction, perfecting my active listening and non-verbal signs.
An interesting webinar on self-reflection and improvement is offered by the North Dakota Center for Nursing (n.d.) that provides free webinars discussing essential topics in nursing. This webinar is free and can be accessed at any time. It can be shared with other nurses to increase the overall quality of dialogue and empower practitioners to participate in advocacy.
To advance in my networking skills, I need to not only join an organization but also participate in its advocacy projects. Such associations as the American Nurses Association (ANA) and American Public Health Association (APHA) have a variety of meetings and webinars where discussions about contemporary topics encourage communication and connection-building (American Public Health Association, 2020). Moreover, APHA also frequently holds conferences in different states.
Attending a conference is a good idea for networking and finding people who are ready to participate in policymaking. Moreover, interacting with colleagues at the current practice cite and in local organizations is another way to create a vast network that has in-depth knowledge about the community.
Coalition development and grassroots organization is another vital part of policymaking. Such programs as Nurses Now (2020) provide nurses of all levels with resources for participation in political events. It aims to teach them how to call and write to their respective legislators and why this type of action is necessary (Salvage & White, 2019). By using this information and disseminating it among the staff, I can increase the awareness of policymaking opportunities for other nurses and provide them with the basis for further discussion.
Persuasion is a skill that is crucial for health policy improvement – one has to provide evidence and be a speaker whose opinion is valued and appreciated. I believe that this particular area of competency should be honed by actively participating in policy-related projects. Thus, I aim to use the resources provided by the organizations mentioned above and engage in a conversation with legislators, coworkers, and communities to advance the quality of care in my area and state-wide.
Finally, it is important to understand the role of persistence in political competence. Political processes do not always lead to policies that were initially proposed by advocates. This, however, does not mean that one should give up and stop attempting to influence the lawmaking process. In contrast, small incremental changes can, in some cases, lead to more significant projects and inspire others to advocate with more passion. For me, a “win” is a recognition of the problem by the government that is followed by the creation of a new policy that addresses this issue in an effective way. Not all policy changes are “wins,” but every action can bring a platform for change.
Nurses are a numerous force of competent, compassionate, and innovation-driven practitioners that can make a difference in the sphere of health policy. It is crucial for each nurse to enhance their skills in leadership, communication, persuasion, and networking to improve the industry of healthcare and people’s access to services.
Nurses’ position in care delivery makes their expertise an integral part of policymaking. My personal strengths prepare me for becoming a DNP leader, but I must continue building connections and engaging myself and others in advocacy projects. Through participation in organizations, initiatives, and webinars, I, as well as other practitioners, can reach political competency and move the field of healthcare forward.
American Nurses Association. (n.d.). Health policy. Web.
American Public Health Association. (2020). Policy statements and advocacy. Web.
Artiga, S., & Hinton, E. (2018). Beyond health care: The role of social determinants in promoting health and health equity. Web.
Davoodvand, S., Abbaszadeh, A., & Ahmadi, F. (2016). Patient advocacy from the clinical nurses’ viewpoint: A qualitative study. Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, 9(5), 1-8.
Melo, W. S. D., Oliveira, P. J. F. D., Monteiro, F. P. M., Santos, F. C. D. A., Silva, M. J. N. D., Calderon, C. J.,… Simão, A. A. C. (2017). Guide of attributes of the nurse’s political competence: A methodological study. Revista Brasileira de Enfermagem, 70(3), 526-534.
North Dakota Center for Nursing. (n.d.). Essential Communication: Hearing Ourselves (ECHO) webinar. Web.
Nursing Now. (2020). Nursing Now programmes. Web.
Oliveira, C., & Tariman, J. D. (2017). Barriers to the patient advocacy role: An integrative review of the literature. Journal of Nursing Practice Applications & Reviews of Research, 7(2), 7-12.
Salvage, J., & White, J. (2019). Nursing leadership and health policy: Everybody’s business. International Nursing Review, 66(2), 147-150.
Warner, J. R. (2003). A phenomenological approach to political competence: Stories of nurse activists. Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice, 4(2), 135-143.