Advancing Nursing Policy Advocacy
The first featured article for ANS 44:1 is titled “Advancing Nursing Policy Advocacy Knowledge: A Theoretical Exploration” authored by Patrick Chiu, RN, MPH. This article is available to download at no cost while it is featured, and we invite you to add your comments below to advance this discussion! Here is the background that Mr. Chiu provided for ANS readers:
Advocacy is a concept that all nurses are familiar with. It’s introduced to students right at the beginning of nursing education and is constantly promoted by nursing organizations as a key nursing role. Similarly, nurses are increasingly called on to engage in political discourse and to influence policy at all levels. While this enthusiasm has been generated by nursing leaders, organizations, and global campaigns, much of the discussion has focused on the idea of ‘getting a seat at the table’, with little emphasis on the knowledge and skills required to effectively influence policy.
Throughout my years in clinical practice, government, professional associations, and nursing regulation, I have had many discussions with novice and seasoned nurses at the local, national, and global level. Conversations related to patient, health system, or policy issues have always generated similar responses – that there is a need to galvanize more nurses to influence policy. Despite this eagerness, I’ve always wondered why in many jurisdictions across the globe, this remained an aspirational statement rather than a reality. A close look at the literature suggests that perhaps the discipline has not fully explored the areas that require further knowledge and skill development to fully realize this engagement.
Although I had worked in policy advocacy for a few years, it wasn’t until my experience participating in the International Council of Nurse’s (ICN) Global Nursing Policy Leadership Institute in 2017, where I began to understand the gap. While nurses are phenomenal at bringing forward content expertise on a range of health and public policy issues, little attention is placed on developing the knowledge and skills required to navigate political contexts, actors, and policy processes – all of which are integral to policy change.
I began writing this article for a theory development class in my PhD program in hopes of advancing the theoretical basis of policy advocacy knowledge within the discipline. By combining ideas from the extant literature and my professional experiences, my goal was to explore how current conc
epts within nursing could be extended from a micro to macro level; and to integrate concepts from the field of policy studies to provide a framework for nurses seeking to engage in policy advocacy to advance social justice. Recent events have once again exposed the high levels of racial injustice and health inequities that continue to exist within our society. While the ideas presented in this article are open to critique, I hope it serves as a useful reference for nurses across all domains wishing to strategically influence health systems and policy.