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Why Nurses Should Make Health Policy a Priority

Updated: May 30, 2019

When I get home from a 12 hour shift at the hospital, I am exhausted. I shed my scrubs, take a shower, shove food in my mouth, and go to bed. Wake up and repeat.

Nurses are notorious for taking great care of their patients and terrible care of themselves. We give and give and give at work. Then we come home, and all we want to do is lay on the couch and stare at the TV. Or sometimes the wall.

So nurses, I get it. You don't have the energy to listen to NPR 4 hours a day. You're emotionally drained and can't bear to hear the latest political drama. I get it, I hear you; but I also challenge you. I challenge you to stay informed when it comes health policy.

There is NO ONE more equipped to influence the development of health policy than nurses. We, along with our colleagues in other health professions, have clinical expertise. But beyond that, nurses have a little something extra to offer.

Nurses are the boots on the ground. We witness the current roadblocks to optimum health and healthcare delivery, shift after shift. And these are not merely workplace setbacks to us. We live out these challenges, alongside our patients, and it feels personal

Nurses live out these challenges, alongside our patients, and it feels personal

Nurses spend significant amounts of time with their patients. We hear about their lives, families, successes, and struggles. Sometimes we hear a lot more than we care to know, but that’s part of the job.

When a patient feels hopeless about paying for their prescriptions upon discharge, I feel it too. People in mental health crisis come into our Emergency Department and have to wait days in ER rooms for inpatient psychiatric placement. And when I think about how it’s because every psych bed in the state is full, it breaks me up inside. When an older gentleman who has to stay the night in the hospital tells me his cat will be hungry, you bet I’m going to help him call his neighbor to make sure it’s fed. 

These emotional connections we develop with our patients are why nurses are voted the most trusted profession, year after year. People respect our clinical knowledge. But more importantly, they believe nurses care about them as people - that we will grieve with them and celebrate with them and fight for them. Patients know that we’ve got their backs. 

That is POWERFUL. 

We have a responsibility to our patients to get informed; to learn how health policy gets made and to make sure that our voices - and the voices of our patients -  are heard and acknowledged. 

We need to wise up and show up.

There's not a nurse alive who hasn't thought about the pieces of our healthcare system that need to change. We know there's work to do. We need to wise up and show up. 

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