Many people get into nursing and other healthcare roles simply because they want to make people’s lives better. It’s a noble cause, and it’s safe to say that nurses at all levels of healthcare ensure patients get the support and respite they sorely need. But what about the rules, policies, and standards that nurses need to adhere to daily?
It’s a misconception that when you work in healthcare, there are no ways to change or influence the “system.” The more experienced nurses get and the further in their education they go, the more likely they are to make a real difference to the people they care for.
Therefore, it’s not always wishful thinking that nursing students aiming to graduate from a top healthcare facility can influence the way people are cared for. From advocacy to making policy change suggestions, there are plenty of routes for nursing staff to make their mark for the better.
Let’s look at why nurses might wish to make positive changes in healthcare and how education and experience can give them the power and access they need to bring about change.
Why might nurses want to change healthcare?
While millions of people receive the standards of care they need to get better via hospitals and specialist clinics across the US, there are still some gaps regarding the quality of care delivered to them.
For example, a recent survey by Harris Insights & Analytics found that 56% of US adults have to wait for more than a week to receive a medical appointment. 30% of people skip seeking healthcare support because they can’t take time away from their daily schedules, and 73% claim that the US healthcare system is simply failing to meet their needs.
For all that nurses and healthcare professionals work hard to ensure people receive the care they need, there’s still much to be done. Some communities across the country might lack resources due to funding. Some people might not even have direct access to doctors or nurses and need to travel miles out of their way to their nearest resources.
There are also concerns that people aresimply not receiving the healthcare guidance they need to maintain healthy lifestyles. Obesity continues to rise across the US, with children impacted just as much as adults. Millions of people are getting sick and are not recovering quickly because they’ve received poor to no advice on how to manage their lifestyles healthily.
While much of the information these people need might be available online, the guidance of an experienced nursing professional makes a lot of difference. A professional nurse can provide support and advice on individual cases and make suggestions to drive genuine change.
Beyond this, nurses may wish to influence policy to ensure marginalized people receive better standards of care and could advocate on behalf of specific groups to raise awareness and funding to bring care standards up to full code.
Who can make a positive difference in healthcare?
It’s possible for anyone in nursing to make positive, sweeping changes to medicine. Change comes about through passionate, hard-working people going above and beyond to believe in a cause, and for many experienced nurses working in clinics across the US, influencing policy and advocating for patients is a major reason they got into the line of work.
The best asset any nurse can have if they want to bring about positive change is education. Graduating with a BSN will help staff get their feet on the ladder and start exploring how healthcare supports patients.
However, by studying for additional degrees, such as an MSN (master of science in nursing) or a DNP (doctorate in nursing practice), healthcare professionals gain additional insight into how hospitals and clinics are run.
There are many things to consider when choosing between MSN and DNP courses. For example, students might consider the MSN vs. DNP salary. Specialized colleges such as the University of Indianapolis provide the skills and knowledge necessary for the roles along with extensive information on what students can expect when they graduate and will help them explore benefits beyond a boosted salary.
For example, a nursing student taking on an MSN or a DNP will learn how much of a difference their influence can actually make to their clinics, their fellow staff, and healthcare at large. These advanced degrees help graduates find ways to make positive changes and support other nurses who may be working alongside them.
While it’s safe to say that the more educated a nurse is, the more insight and influence they’re likely to wield, all members of a nursing team have parts to play. Insight and suggestions from BSN-educated nurses go a long way toward building statistics that administrators rely on.
Nurses are the eyes and ears on the ground when it comes to patient care. They know better than anyone how facilities are performing and which positive changes are worth prioritizing. Therefore, while it’s an excellent idea to pursue higher education to make healthcare changes, you can start as soon as you graduate!
How can nurses make positive changes to healthcare systems?
It’s worth mentioning, firstly, that all healthcare systems vary, which means the ways in which nurses can influence policy and launch advocacy efforts will differ from one clinic or area to another. That means the points made in this section are flexible, but the concepts are universal.
Let’s take a look at a few ways, hypothetically, a DNP-educated nurse could make positive changes to the way clinics and hospitals are run.
Focus on fellow nurses
Nurses with DNPs know better than anyone how hard nursing teams work. Therefore, they’re in great positions to advocate on their behalf for better resources, tools, and funding.
In areas where there might be nursing shortages, DNPs could advocate to help fund and set up nursing schools in the local area to boost the talent pool available to healthcare facilities.
They can also advocate and press on public governments to invest more in financial aid for nurses. As some professionals might find it difficult to enter nursing due to student debt or the cost of local housing, DNPs could see fit to lobby for nursing grants or for some student debts to be forgiven completely.
The argument is that if healthcare systems are struggling, it needs to be easier for budding nurses to get into work and sustainably develop while doing so. In the event of funding withdrawals from healthcare systems, DNPs have the power to challenge administrators and local government agencies to reverse such decisions.
Push for better working conditions
Better working conditions for nurses ensure that patients receive better standards of care, not only in terms of efficiency but also in terms of quality diagnosis and eventual treatment. DNPs can help review working conditions in clinics and hospitals and then advocate so that locations are safe and fully equipped for increasing care demand.
DNPs and other nurses could advocate publicly for more investment in personal protective equipment or simply raise awareness of health and safety practices. It’s also becoming more popular for nurses to advocate for new technology to reach underfunded clinics.
For example, small clinics that serve large communities or those based in remote areas could benefit from telehealth and telecare facilities. This remote nursing and care technology became extremely popular during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when people could not reach doctors or nurses for advice physically.
Nurses could hypothetically push hospital boards and local funding sources to invest in such equipment and apps so that more people receive care when they would otherwise struggle to reach out to a provider.
Make policies directly
Nursing influence doesn’t start and end with advocacy, as DNPs and others may be able to amend or even create healthcare policies in their local areas. The best way nurses at all levels can influence policy is by joining a national nursing organization.
National Nursing Organizations (NNOs), such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), help bring nursing staff together to collaborate on ways to influence healthcare policies across their regions. For example, working with an NNO can provide access to political action committees, other professionals in different regions, and frontline events.
In some cases, nurses in NNOs can join attempts to lobby policymakers. It means there are many opportunities for professionals to raise their concerns with those with direct access to lawmaking. These channels can prove highly effective when nurses present strong bodies of evidence and compelling arguments.
State nursing organizations, too, prove highly effective in influencing policy on a regional scale. Beyond these groups, some nurses might even wish to run for public office so they have direct access to changing policies that people could benefit from.
Review and discuss with executives
In many cases, DNPs have the power to review and update medical processes and publications while working closely with hospital administrators and executives.
Those nurses with DNP qualifications are some of the highest-qualified in the industry, meaning their knowledge and expertise grant them access to making some major changes.
Of course, alongside education, DNPs must possess personal and professional values common to all healthcare leaders. This way, they will find it easier to communicate with and influence policymakers and administrators higher up the healthcare ladder.
Adjusting and updating nursing guides and practices occurs regularly. It is influenced not only by those who have access to policymakers but also by nurses working on the hospital floor.
DNPs and other highlyeducated nurses can deliver knowledge and insights from their fellow staff members to help improve guidance standards for many years to come. DNPs and policymakers need nursing insights to ensure practice remains relevant and effective. It simply will not do to make assumptions in healthcare!
Networking is a must
While education provides nurses with ample access to policymaking across the healthcare board, networking with others also proves to be a strong strategy when trying to make positive changes for all.
For example, networking with other nurses could grant access to executives and policymakers otherwise removed from the action of the hospital floor. In healthcare, it’s not always about “who you know,” but having a direct link to hospital administrators and local legislators can helpspeed up the progress of change.
Nurses undertaking networking mustkeep an open mind and focus on networking purely for getting to know others and to help build a support system they can call upon when required. Being able to influence specific people through said networks is a fantastic bonus; however, that comes along!
How long does change take?
Change takes time, no matter what industry you wish to influence or the policies you intend to adjust. However, anything is possible in healthcare; it’s worth keeping an open mind. The broader the change requests, the longer it could take for policy channels to implement them.
In some cases, there might be regular reviews of practices and education, meaning nurses can expect some changes to take effect a few times a year.
Regarding governmental policy, the speed of change will depend on the existing policies of senators and representatives in charge of local jurisdictions and how much access nursing staff have to them. That doesn’t mean they should stop fighting for change!
Making a positive difference one patient at a time
Nurses make incredible positive differences for patients, one case at a time. However, it’s a misconception that they can’t be positive influencers elsewhere. As we’ve explored in this article, there are many great ways for nurses to advocate on behalf of patients, healthcare settings, and their fellow team members.
One of the best ways to wield influence is to dive deep into education and industry matters. The more educated a nurse is, the more likely it is that they will have access to people who can make these changes and set plans in motion.
That said, nurses at all levels have the power to start making changes through their experience on the hospital floor. It’s never too early to start making a change!