What is a Health Policy Nurse?

As health care reform continues to be implemented and debated, there is strong demand for nurses who understand policy. They must use their technical expertise to lead and guide policy changes in various health care settings. A health policy degree looks at the bigger picture and system-level issues of health care environments. Learning how policies may affect different groups of people and organizations will help initiative dialogue, drive change and promote patient safety.

The Roots of Health Care Concerns

Many of the problems experienced in clinical settings have their roots in policy problems and systemic conundrums. For instance, nurses who work in emergency departments will notice that more homeless, mentally ill and low functioning individuals are seeking medical help. This is usually linked to state and federal policy changes that reduce funding for human services, treatment centers and transitional housing services.

Most nurses will notice many patients with high-profile conditions, such as diabetes and weak hearts, will be targeted by the aggressive marketing of new miracle products and services. On the good side, the number of patients with asthma and emphysema are steadily declining with strong controls on public cigarette advertising. All of these clinical issues are directly related to health policy updates and changes.

The Role of Health Policy Nurses

The role of nursing has now expanded beyond just being the labor backbone of the health care industry. Today, nurse leaders are focusing on evaluating, challenging and reformatting policy. Health policy degree programs prepare nurses to provide policy leadership and administration in a variety of organizational settings. Nurses are prepared to identify, challenge and critically analyze laws and regulations at state, national and institutional levels.

Nurse leaders know how to apply their in-depth knowledge of health care policy making to plan, evaluate and implement standards. This degree helps nurses to understand how policy decisions impact various people and demographics. When all of these skills are combined together, the nurse will be ready to successfully drives institutional changes in their community and state.

Wide Career Possibilities

Nurses who are health care policy experts may find employment in organizations that deal with research, regulations, legislation, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Many will find work in their state’s departments of aging, disabilities, child welfare and human services agencies. A select amount of health policy nurses will find jobs in international development and non-profit organizations. For example, a quality improvement manager will ensure compliance with policies and procedures by directing improvement initiatives and promoting better outcomes.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a health care compliance coordinator will develop, maintain and monitor risk management programs to meet the guidelines of things like OSHA and HIPAA. They will review policies and update procedures for applicable laws and programs. Health care compliance coordinators perform annual HIPAA compliance audit and information security risk assessments to identify regulatory exposure and improvement opportunities.

Related Resource: What is a Nurse Attorney?

A health policy specialization degree for nurses will include classes in policy trends, research, leadership and communications. There may also be classes in epidemiology, corporate influences, demographic factors, health care economics, managed care, social policy and health care institutions.