Nurses constitute the largest single component of the healthcare workforce and play an integral role in the proper functionality of health management. These professionals have been viewed as the implementers of the policies which seek to foster and advance public health. However, nursing organizations have increasingly recognized that promoting patient safety and enhancing the various quality initiatives cannot be accomplished without the Registered Nurses’ (RNs) active participation in policy decision-making processes. This implies that the realization of the vision of a transformed healthcare system is considerably dependent on the healthcare workers’ ability to influence the current and future standards and processes through policy involvement. For instance, RNs spend a lot of time with patients, leading to a more in-depth understanding of the specific needs of a community they serve than other healthcare professionals. Although RNs are not viewed as participants in policy-making, their involvement in such processes can impact practice standards and quality of care through resource allocation, identification and prioritization of critical areas, and reforming ineffective policies.
Resource Allocation Decision-Making
Professional nurses bring a wealth of expertise and experience to resource allocation decision making in multiple areas, in and outside healthcare. Due to the scarcity of materials used in delivering care and the unlimited demand, their assignment and distribution are a fundamental political and social consideration. Notably, the challenge of how to effectively allocate healthcare resources equitably and justly remains considerably unresolved. Since allocation strategies are policy-driven, the effectiveness and impact of professional nurses’ input can only be realized through their active involvement in the highest levels of resource administration decision-making (Scott et al., 2018). Therefore, as gatekeepers to healthcare, nursing professionals should exert their influence on the formulation of resource allocation policies rather than participate in their implementation.
Additionally, nurses constitute the largest proportion of healthcare workers and the primary providers of patient care. They deliver most of the services prescribed by the physicians and spend more time with patients and communities than other professionals in healthcare. This implies that they are better positioned to understand the specific needs of the people they serve, compared to their counterparts. As a result, a significant proportion of healthcare policies significantly impact the practice and operations of RNs. From this perspective, the involvement of nursing professionals in the resource allocation decision-making process promotes the effectiveness of such policies, particularly regarding the distribution of both macro and micro resources (Williams et al., 2018). Therefore, RNs’ participation in resource allocation policy-making is integral and facilitates their efficient, just, and equitable distribution, according to their communities and patients’ specific needs.
Identification and Prioritization of Key Healthcare Issues
Professional nurses play a vital role in promoting public health. This entails the provision and coordination of care, the prevention of adverse events, the optimization of healthcare service productivity, and the delivery of quality patient outcomes through the nursing practice. In this regard, the scope of responsibility for these professionals from the traditional perspective has mainly been limited to health promotion, disease prevention, and modifying the behavior of people with respect to their health. However, RNs’ roles have increasingly become multidisciplinary and integrated aspects of leadership and governance designed to enhance delivery, quality, and accessibility of healthcare services. According to Jones and Johnstone (2019), nursing professionals have been at the forefront of identifying and managing gaps in the overall healthcare systems, which could frustrate the accomplishment of the desired outcomes. For instance, RNs identify the factors which adversely contribute to patient safety and satisfaction, such as the working environment, since they are directly involved. However, the effective remedial action and rectification of these gaps can only be achieved by accommodating RNs at the policy decision-making forums.
Further, nurses, by virtue of their continuous patient and community engagements, have a comprehensive understanding of the various factors which influence their health. In this regard, these professionals have an indispensable responsibility to strengthen individual and society-based health promotion and disease prevention initiatives. For instance, nurses identify the local factors which affect the health of the people, population characteristics, health status of the public, and the community’s view about their needs. More specifically, professional nurses acknowledge how the conditions in which individuals live impact their mental and physical wellbeing. However, this knowledge can only lead to the improvement of the various healthcare aspects if it is prioritized and utilized to develop relevant strategies for action planning. From this perspective, it is imperative to view nurses as experts with in-depth knowledge and allow them to contribute to the decision-making processes at policy levels. Therefore, nurses have the profound potential to positively influence healthcare policies and politics and be given opportunities for participation.
Redesigning and Transforming Healthcare Systems
Nurses are frustrated by policy changes, which affect their practice, especially when such modifications are formulated and developed by individuals with limited healthcare experience and knowledge. For instance, healthcare providers may initiate policy transformation to control costs and improve the quality of delivered care. However, most of these changes directly impact nursing practice’s operations and processes and could potentially generate disillusionment, frustration, burnout, and negativity. This implies that the success of any policies geared towards transforming or redesigning any healthcare aspect depends significantly on the consideration of the professional’s input. Such an approach positively impacts the RNs’ attitude towards the proposed changes since they participate in the process and feel that the changes are not just events that happen to them. According to Thomas et al. (2016), these healthcare professionals should be at the center of policy formulation and generate innovative ideas that enhance their practice, improve quality of care, and promote healthcare. Therefore, when nurses do not sit at the policy decision-making platforms, their interests and their clients may be severely impacted.
Policy Influence on Living and Working Conditions
Nurses’ living and working conditions, such as work-life balance, directly impact their performance and the quality of delivered care. The working environment in which the nurses spend most of their active periods of the day can affect their mental, social, and physical health. Notably, the nursing profession ranks among the most involving and stressful occupations, with the enormous workload, leading to numerous adverse effects originating from this working environment (Parkinson, 2018). Generally, the provision of premium patient care stems from a healthy workplace with high standards of employment practices, which promote dignity at work and optimal work-life balance. Moreover, the environment should protect and promote the nurses’ safety at work and design the various job aspects in a way which provides them with a specific degree of autonomy and control. However, these issues can only be achieved and anchored in policies when RNs are empowered to ventilate at the highest decision-making levels. Therefore, nurses’ role in policy formulation enhances the anchoring of best practices at the workplace, supports work-life balance, ultimately contributing to better patient outcomes.
Healthcare professionals’ responsibility for advocacy is not limited to patient issues but also extends into professional affairs. This implies that they are concerned about and promote numerous work-related subjects, including nurse-patient ratio, medical workforce, prevention of malpractices, and the expansion of their roles. Additionally, these professionals advocate pertinent and relevant activities, such as improving nursing education and enhancing its congruence with the existing social needs. Notably, these issues are central to the development of effective and functional public health systems. However, their efficacy can only be realized by integrating the professional insights and first-hand knowledge of the practitioners into the operational procedures, regulations, and policies. Thomas et al. (2016) argue that professional and patient advocacy are intertwined and cumulatively contribute to public healthcare improvement. Therefore, nurses should actively participate in the policy decision-making processes to ensure that they are involved in a broader array of healthcare responsibilities, advance their profession, and promote the delivery of quality care.
Conclusively, nurses should be viewed as professionals with the ability and responsibility of influencing the current and future healthcare delivery systems. These experts operate on a distinctive framework which seeks to foster and advance the overall wellbeing of individuals and communities throughout their lifespans. However, to effectively and efficiently achieve these objectives, it is integral to accommodate the nurse professionals on the various policy decision-making strategies. Indeed, they provide insightful contributions regarding the most appropriate resource allocation models, the identification and prioritization of the pressing issues, and the transformation of healthcare systems. Additionally, RNs provide invaluable knowledge about the most practical strategies for improving their living and working conditions and acting as professional advocates. Therefore, nurses play a fundamental role in healthcare policy formulation.
Jones, A., & Johnstone, M. (2019). Managing gaps in the continuity of nursing care to enhance patient safety. Collegian, 26(1), 151–157. Web.
Parkinson, M. (2018). The healthy health care workplace: A competitive advantage. Current Cardiology Reports, 20(10), 1–8. Web.
Scott, P. A., Harvey, C., Felzmann, H., Suhonen, R., Habermann, M., Halvorsen, K., Christiansen, K., Toffoli, L., & Papastavrou, E. (2018). Resource allocation and rationing in nursing care: A discussion paper. Nursing Ethics, 26(5), 1528–1539. Web.
Thomas, T. W., Seifert, P. C., & Joyner, J. C. (2016). Registered nurses leading innovative changes. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 21(3). Web.
Williams, S. D., Phillips, J. M., & Koyama, K. (2018). Nurse advocacy: Adopting a health in all policies approach. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 23(3). Web.