Health care is experiencing dramatic changes as provisions outlined in the Affordable Care Act go into effect. As the largest professional group within the health care workforce, nurses are uniquely positioned to facilitate the successful translation of critical health care policy into practice.
In a recent Gallup study conducted for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 1,500 opinion leaders ‹ from the public and private sector, academia and trade organizations ‹ think nurses should have more influence in health care policy issues, including: reducing medical errors (90 percent), increasing quality of care (89 percent), promoting wellness and expanding preventative care (86 percent) and improving health care efficiency and reducing costs (84 percent).
Recognizing the importance of this emerging role, some nursing schools offer educational programs that help current nurses develop expertise in health care policy, preparing them for leadership positions that require an understanding of the economic, political and social forces that influence patient care. Chamberlain College of Nursing, for example, offers a Master of Science in Nursing Health care Policy specialty track designed to prepare nurses for expanding roles in health care policy.
Industry leaders cite this educational path as crucial to successful health care reform. In its 2010 call-to-action report, The Future of Nursing:
Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine emphasizes that nurses need a voice in policymaking. By achieving higher and more specialized levels of education, nurses can help transform the profession and reform the delivery of patient care.