The global health industry relies on many hard-working professionals to function, and this is certainly true when it comes to nursing. Nurses are the backbone of healthcare in countries such as the USA and are responsible for providing the best quality care to patients. Although this is clearly evident in front-line positions such as registered nurses, who provide direct primary care to patients, it is also true for more senior roles.
Nursing leaders also play a vital role in delivering the highest quality patient care and ensuring people have the best experience when receiving treatment at their facility. Two important ways they go about this are advocating for patients and having a positive impact on healthcare policies which aim to improve patient care.
If you plan to work in this kind of role within nursing, being able to do both these things is crucial. This means developing the skills required to both advocate for patients and influence patient care policies is an essential part of preparing for a nursing leadership role.
Developing skills in advocacy and policy-making
Not many leaders are born with the skills and instead build them up over time as they move through their professional lives. By focusing on developing these skills before moving into advanced nursing roles, you are better prepared to advocate for patients and ensure policies in health deliver better care.
Preparing for nursing leadership roles in this way is best done through advanced training and education. Programs such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice – Executive Nurse Leadership course at Baylor University trains aspiring nursing leaders in areas such as resource attainment and allocation, strategic economic and financial concepts and creating excellence in professional practice environments. Students gain an in-depth understanding and competencies to transform healthcare systems.
Making a difference through patient advocacy
Although senior roles within nursing involve many different responsibilities, advocating for patients and influencing healthcare policies towards better patient care are both crucial. This ensures nursing leaders keep patients at the forefront of what they do and speak up for patients when needed.
Making a positive impact on healthcare policy ensures any guidelines the health sector implements deliver the best quality care possible. Nurse leaders are in a position to influence both these things in the following ways:
Medicare is a government national health insurance program which is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Its purpose is to provide health insurance for people over 65 as well as younger people who receive disability benefits. Medicare works through a fee for service model that is split across various parts and aims to cover all or a portion of healthcare costs for registered users.
This is a good example of a healthcare policy affecting patient care which nurse leaders can focus on improving. By advocating for changes to the Medicare system, such as expanding who is eligible to register for it or extending the services patients can access through it, nurse leaders can help improve the care patients receive on a national scale. In terms of patient advocacy, nurse leaders could run an educational program within their facility to inform patients about Medicare, determine if they are eligible and help them to register for it.
Implementation of new strategies in teams
Implementing new care strategies within a team may involve amending current strategies to improve the care given based on patient feedback or creating brand-new working strategies which focus on providing better patient care. One example of this is implementing a new strategy which enables nurses to spend more time with patients or amending an old strategy that led to inefficiency. Advocating for improved clinical conditions and staffing ratios are key issues which also impact nursing burnout, nursing workplace violence and patient outcomes.
Talk to local politicians and government figures
Taking this approach enables leaders to speak to the people who have the power to change health policy and law, which patients may have expressed concern about. This may be at local state level to begin with but could result in leaders in nursing advocating for patients on a more national level. One way that nurses can develop relationships with policymakers is by interning or volunteering at an elected official’s office. This provides an inside view regarding how the political office works and allows nurses to contribute directly to matters involving healthcare.
Talking to local or national politicians about better patient care also allows senior nurses to become involved with the creation of health policies for better patient care. This could involve providing feedback on new policy proposals and ensuring that patient views are fully considered. Participating in committees that create and amend healthcare policies provides another excellent opportunity to advocate for patients.
Connect with senior figures within the organization
Senior nurses can engage with higher level figures in their own organization to highlight patient feedback in key areas. This can allow them to drive real change at the board level in response to patient views on the care they receive.
Connecting with the people within your own hospital or clinic at the board level also allows leaders to be involved when internal policies around patient care are being drawn up or changed. This enables nursing leaders to advocate for patients and ensure any policy decisions have the most positive impact on patient care.
Making an impact through patient advocacy
As the above illustrates, leadership figures in the nursing sector can have a measurable impact on healthcare policies for better patient care and patient advocacy. Both these things are an important part of any nurse leadership position, as they ensure patients are listened to, and the best quality care is provided.