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Changing Policy: Becoming an Advocate for Change

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Nurses often find themselves wishing things could be different or, worse, complaining about their job. What if I told you there is something you can do to truly make a difference in the long run?

Nurses are needed at all levels of policy and decision-making to participate, advocate and educate. Whether you have a few minutes, hours or more to give, you can potentially make a big difference in the future of nursing. Here’s how.

Advocate Locally

Even if you don’t have an abundance of time, your voice matters. Whenever you hear of a new policy or initiative that you have an opinion on (good or bad), take action. If it’s a policy at work, schedule time with your organizational leaders after gathering concerns of your co-workers. When it comes to helping your community, participate in free clinics or health promotion events. If you have more time, consider organizing your own! You can share your view on health policy while giving your local community a safe place to seek help. You can also write your local congressional representative when you have something to say about the legislation that directly affects your community. Find their contact information here.  

Think Bigger

Staying on top of all the latest healthcare changes can be daunting. Luckily, there are some great organizations that can keep you informed and do much of the research for you. The big two are the American Nurses Association and National League for Nursing. There are also organizations that focus on particular care, so look for one that matters to your line of work. No matter the affiliation, these groups follow local and national health policy, summarizing the who, what, where, when and why for their members. If you want to get more involved, there are plenty of opportunities to work with these groups to share information, take surveys, participate in informational calls and even vote on initiatives.  The time you take to read up on future programs or governmental guidelines can not only help you prepare but give you the opportunity to have your say.

Think Bigger Still

The government and larger organizations offer opportunities to join “think tanks” known as advisory committees. If you have a particular viewpoint and want to effect major policy changes, this is where you want to be. Many of these have time and work commitments, but they’ll generally require a few hours a month of your time.

Most states publish an annual call for new committees, healthcare related ones among them, in December or January of the following year on the state’s website. Some also offer newsletter subscriptions that will keep you up to date on newly formed or open positions. Many organizations will also publish calls for speakers and recruit professionals to serve on task forces. These are great opportunities to not only learn about the policy making process but to be a voice of your community.

If you do want to get involved in this capacity, be prepared to submit a resume that shows your experience in a relevant field and a paragraph or two describing why you want to participate and the knowledge you’ll bring to the table.

No matter the time commitment or level you wish to engage, I encourage every nurse (and healthcare professional) to voice their opinions for the betterment of our profession.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.

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