Health Care Policy Nursing

If you are a licensed or registered nurse with an advanced degree, or planning on becoming one, there are many different nursing specialties that you could pursue. Most people are aware of the nursing shortages that are facing our nation with its expanding aging population as the baby boomers grow older. However, many people aren’t aware of the enormous variety of niches existing in nursing and how nurses are gaining more power in shaping the very healthcare system that they work within. If you are passionate about nursing and healthcare, and are interested in public health policy or health care policy, an advanced degree with a focus on health care policy nursing would be an excellent choice for you.

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Health care policy nurses are nurses who research, analyze, and study existing healthcare policies and regulations and how they affect the population. They use their direct nursing experience and their training in health care policy, economics, communication, and ethics to help form new healthcare and government policies. These nurses can work for different types of employers, including universities, colleges, government health agencies, research firms, legislative or regulatory offices, advocacy organizations, or other health care organizations.

Nurses make up the largest group of health care workers and spend more time with patients than any other segment of health care workers. This gives them not only an understanding of how the health care system works in our country, but a unique perspective about what needs to be improved and how to best achieve that through health care policy changes. Nurses are the professionals who regularly see the inequities of health care systems in different regions and among different populations. They see the problems of the uninsured, or the underinsured. More than other workers and even than physicians, they see the human face of the problems our health care system faces. Nurses with degrees in health policy can combine their nursing expertise with their health policy training, and then bring the needs of their patients to the forefront of political and policy discussions.

These nurses learn how to become researchers, analysts, educators, and advocates. They analyze and research existing health laws and policies. They can help develop effective health policy initiatives and research ways to successfully implement those measures. Health policy nurses can become leaders in forming health policy at not just the local level, but at the state or national level as well.

Generally, health policy nurses have a PhD or a master’s degree in nursing, with a focus on health policy. The first step in heading toward this field is to become a licensed, registered nurse. You can become a registered nurse by completing a two-year associate degree in nursing (ASN/ADN) from a community college. Ideally you will continue on or enter a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program since the additional education (BSN) will be the stepping stone you need to apply and be be considered for a master’s level nursing program. Once you have completed your education, you will need to become licensed. Each state has its own board of nursing. You will have to pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) which you must pass in order to be a licensed nurse.

Nurses will continue to have a growing voice in health care policy, so if you are passionate about the direction health care is taking and would like to take a leadership role in health policy development; this career path may be a fulfilling one.

(Sources: A Nursing PhD Specialty in Health Policy: University of Massachusetts Boston,
Carol Hall Ellenbecker, PhD, RN)