Every Voice Counts: Influencing Healthcare Policy in Nursing

A New Voice

MSN Healthcare Policy Specialty Track Prepares Nurses to Positively Influence Delivery of Care Nationwide 

Five years ago, the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) 2010 landmark report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” called for nurses to play more pivotal decision-making roles to affect healthcare policy that would improve patient care. Despite this recommendation, nurses make up just 6 percent of hospital boards.

Approximately 3.1 million strong in the U.S., comprising the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, registered nurses are uniquely positioned to bring the patient perspective to boardrooms to improve healthcare policy decisions that impact quality and safety. 

“Our nation is experiencing rapid change in healthcare delivery, and nurses can be the catalysts to making it more accessible and accountable, while emphasizing the importance of population health, from prevention to full rehabilitation.”
– Elizabeth Fildes, EdD, RN, CNE, CARN-AP, APHN-BC, DACACD

Chamberlain College of Nursing aims to narrow this gap and elevate nurses’ frontline perspective at decision-making tables through the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Healthcare Policy Specialty Track. The program is designed to prepare nurses for a variety of roles that direct the path of healthcare policies that benefit patients and the community. 

The MSN Healthcare Policy Specialty Track curriculum prepares nurses to research, design and implement healthcare policy, as well as evaluate policy outcomes. Coursework includes the foundations of healthcare policy, principles of healthcare systems, politics, economics and policy, global health, and nursing leadership in the public policy arena.

Our nation is experiencing rapid change in healthcare delivery, and nurses can be the catalysts to making it more accessible and accountable, while emphasizing the importance of population health, from prevention to full rehabilitation,” explained Elizabeth Fildes, EdD, RN, CNE, CARN-AP, APHN-BC, DACACD, a professor in Chamberlain’s MSN Healthcare Policy Specialty Track. “Consumers and healthcare providers can benefit greatly from having nurses’ passion for holistic care, clinical insights and leadership influence on the policies that will help shape the resources that benefit the patient experience and our population’s health.” 

Dr. Fildes says seeing graduates apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world advocacy efforts is fulfilling. “Nurses are the authority on patient experience, quality and safety,” she said. “Policy work is the vehicle that allows nurses to use this knowledge in co-creating legislation that exponentially enhances healthcare environments and resources for improved primary, secondary and tertiary care.” 

“I feel fulfilled knowing I can help make a positive impact on our nation’s health, while simultaneously inspiring fellow nurses to be political advocates for our profession.”  
– Katie Hall, MSN, RN-BC

National Nurse ActChamberlain Alumna’s Involvement in National Nurse Act
Katie Hall, MSN, RN-BC, a 2013 graduate of the MSN Healthcare Policy Specialty Track, serves on the executive board of The National Nursing Network Organization (NNNO). Since 2006, NNNO has advocated for Congress to pass a bill that would combat the growing epidemic of preventable diseases, increase health literacy and promote health awareness. 

The legislation, formally known as H.R. 379, or the National Nurse Act of 2015, brings preventative health issues to the forefront by designating the Chief Nurse Officer (CNO), an existing position in the U.S. Public Health Service, as the National Nurse for Public Health, a more publicly visible nurse leader who would collaborate with other healthcare leaders to address health disparities and set goals to improve public health.

“Our country’s Surgeon General and Attorney General have become household names, but the CNO, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, doesn’t garner the same visibility,” Hall explained. “A National Nurse for Public Health would perform the responsibilities presently being executed by the CNO while concurrently spearheading leadership toward improving public health.”

Hall’s advocacy efforts began as part of her practicum experience for the MSN Healthcare Policy Specialty Track, when a fellow student made her aware of the National Nurse Act. Hall joined Teri Mills, RN, MS, CNE, president of the NNNO, along with other nurses, to visit Washington, D.C., to seek legislative support, meet with stakeholders and voice their dedication to promoting the National Nurse for Public Health. 

While support of the National Nurse Act is varied across national nursing organizations, Hall is grateful for the opportunity to advocate for healthcare policy. She credits her education from Chamberlain with helping empower her with the ability to step up and make a difference by developing a firm understanding of policy foundations and processes.

“It is empowering to gain a solid grasp of how the healthcare system works, both in politics and economics, and to actively apply this knowledge in the public policy arena,” Hall said. “I feel fulfilled knowing I can help make a positive impact on our nation’s health, while simultaneously inspiring fellow nurses to be political advocates for our profession.” 

Change Begins at a Grassroots Level

The National Nurse Act launched in 2006, following the 2005 publication of Mills’ New York Times op-ed, “America’s Nurse.” A supporter who read the piece contacted Mills and encouraged her to take legislative action to gain support for her idea in hopes of bringing it to fruition. 

In her advocacy work, Hall works closely with Mills and other nurses who seek legislative support, meet with stakeholders and continue to voice their dedication to promoting the National Nurse for Public Health. 

 “As nurses, it is no longer enough to express caring at the bedside,” explained Mills. “Our voices must be heard by those who are making decisions that ultimately affect the nursing profession and care we are able to provide to patients and their families. Together we have the ability to affect policies that will advance our nation’s well-being and elevate our profession to a more visible leadership role. Our work is proof that nurses can take small steps that can eventually lead to improving health outcomes on a larger scale than our individual practice settings.” 

In January, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Congressman Peter King (R-NY) reintroduced the National Nurse Act to the 114th Congress. Amid growing bipartisan support, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the legislation to the U.S. Senate on May 6, 2015, National Nurses Day. Currently, the National Nurse Act of 2015 has bipartisan support from 34 co-sponsors.

“Nurses who are passionate about causes can learn to become skilled collaborators and communicators,” Dr. Fildes said. “They will have the ability to work synergistically with like-minded organizations to elicit positive change that makes a widespread impact in the delivery of care. Every contribution we make, no matter how small, elevates the importance of our viewpoint and puts us one step closer to improving our nation’s health.” 

Nurses looking to champion change in healthcare policy can visit govtrack.us to explore current legislation impacting healthcare and nursing. 

To learn more about The National Nurse Act of 2015, visit nationalnurse.org.


How can nurses prepare to influence healthcare policy?

A New Voice-Susan_Groenwald

Continued education provides a solid foundation and understanding of the healthcare policy political arena, arming nurses with the knowledge and credibility to help direct public policy and transform healthcare.” 
– Susan Groenwald, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN
President, Chamberlain College of Nursing


A New Voice-W Richard Cowling IIINurses not only tend to patients’ physical needs but also respond to their social, mental and spiritual needs – this patient perspective is unique to nurses and adds value to the voice they can bring to decision-making tables in healthcare.” 
– W. Richard Cowling, III, PhD, RN, APRN-BC, AHN-BC, FAAN
Vice President of Academic Affairs


A New Voice-Carol EldrigeNurses are equipped with a comprehensive perspective of patient care that aids in their value as leaders in shaping the policies and legislation that can elevate their role and positively impact the delivery of care.” 
– Carole Eldridge, DNP, RN, CNE, NEA-BC
Senior Director, Post-Licensure Program


What do you think?

Give us your thoughts on current healthcare legislation. What public policy issues matter most to nurses today? What should the priorities be? Let us know!

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