The Role of Nurses in Healthcare Policy

This blog explores the structure and components of healthcare policy, the role of nurses in healthcare policy, and the ways a nurse can become involved in policy development and change. 

Do you ever find yourself pondering a healthcare issue that just won’t leave your thoughts? You’re not alone. Nurses are right in the thick of healthcare policy, as it’s woven into the fabric of our daily routines. 

The legislative process might seem like a distant land for most of us healthcare professionals. However, understanding this process is critical to the process of turning those ideas into real, tangible action. Fortunately, you don’t need a PhD or a dedicated career in healthcare policy to make a difference. All it takes is a dash of passion and a sprinkle of knowledge on a particular topic. 

So, why not seize the chance to impact healthcare policy? Whether you’re rocking the scrubs within your workplace, collaborating with nursing organizations, or even communicating with policymakers and elected officials, every nurse has the power to be a healthcare advocate. It’s not just about patient care; it’s about championing the well-being of our nursing community too. 

Ready to make your mark? Let’s dive into the world of healthcare policy. 

Recommended podcast course: Nursing Roles in Healthcare Policy: A Focus on Underserved Populations 

What is healthcare policy? 

Healthcare policy shapes the very essence of how we receive and provide healthcare in our society. It is a broad term used to describe the combination of plans, evaluations, and actions that are used to structure health care delivery within a society.  

Healthcare policy encompasses any law, regulation, procedure, or guidelines that impacts patient care and medical providers. Healthcare policy can dive into topics like healthcare access, cost, delivery methods, research, technology, and privacy. The goal of healthcare policy is to steer the ship toward a healthier, happier future. 

Healthcare policy development and enforcement 

Policies are developed at the local, state, or national levels. Congress crafts the overarching laws, but this is not a solo act. It requires input from regulatory bodies and agencies within the federal government. Input can also come from nursing and healthcare organizations, lobbyists, and passionate individuals that effectively communicate with politicians to speak on their behalf. 

Agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Centers of Disease Control (CDC), The Federal Drug Administration (FDA), and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) have a huge impact on all who work in the health care system. Professional organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association (ANA), also have an important voice in policy making and encourage nurses to voice their opinion. 

Healthcare systems and organizations have their own internal structure of policy development, which is highly reliant on their employees and providers to provide input. 

How nurses can impact healthcare policy 

All nurses can make a profound impact on public health policy by assessing issues within health systems, regulatory practices, access to care, health information technology and care coordination.  

The key to becoming impactful is to start with small, measurable steps. Opportunities include becoming and staying informed on topics, joining professional organizations that are engaged in healthcare policy, educating others, serving on committees, communicating with members of legislative bodies, and engaging in research.  

Stay informed about major healthcare policy issues 

To get involved in healthcare policy, start with research. Become knowledgeable on sources of relevant and current policies impacting the healthcare system. There are numerous resources. Look for peer-reviewed, accredited, and unbiased sources of literature. Avoid argumentative and opinionated, rather than factual, sources.  

Find a comprehensive directory of journals here: Nursing Journal Directory: International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE) 

Join a professional nursing organization 

There is a huge benefit in joining a prominent nursing organization. State and national nursing associations have tremendous impact on administration of healthcare. Once you decide on an organization, you should become a member and contact the policy board to find out how to get involved. The organization will likely have a process for voicing their ideas on policies at the local, state, and federal levels. 

For example, the American Nurses Association (ANA) serves as a leading organization and explains their hope is to voice the interests of the nation’s 4 million registered nurses in the US. Various other organizations hope to voice concerns at the highest levels to influence health policy. 

Serve on committees 

There are opportunities for nurses to have a meaningful impact at all levels of healthcare policy. The roles can be voluntary or professionally based. The committee may be a part of a regulatory agency, a government agency, a healthcare organization, or an academic program (Mason, Gardner, Outlaw & O’Grady, 2016). 

  • National health policy: Larger national nursing organizations like the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the National League for Nursing (NLN) lobby extensively for policy change and advocacy for all nurses at the national level. 
  • State health policy: An example of state regulatory bodies in state nursing organizations that directly influence policies that relate to both scope of practice and education standards. There are usually opportunities to become a board or committee member. 
  • Local health policy: On the local level, nurses can impact guidelines for community-specific wellness initiatives, school health, and even environmental health issues.  
  • Facility and organizational policy: A major opportunity for nurses is getting involved with policy creation in the facilities where they work.  
  • Academic program: There is always a need for practicing nurses to give input on academic curriculum within nursing programs. 

Advocacy and lobbying for nurses  

Advocacy and lobbying within the legislative process is a more aggressive, but meaningful, approach to impacting healthcare policy. This role involves communication with policy makers. It is important to be aware of the levels of policy development and enforcement, starting with the formation of a bill. 

A bill begins as merely an idea for a change or improvement. The members of the legislative branch introduce a bill to Congress, but the ideas can originate from a variety of sources, such as business organizations, lobbyists for various organizations, and constituents (Seibert, Malone, DeLeon, & DeLeon, 2022).  

Research the legislator that could impact the policy that concerns you. Communication can be as simple as an email, phone call, or scheduling a meeting. The appropriate legislator can significantly impact the formation or modification of laws and regulations. can steer you in the right direction of locating your representative. The site provides current bills and motions, contact information, and important election information. CONGRESS.GOV: State Legislature Websites 

Educate others 

The heart of nursing is delivering meaningful education to others. This will look different for every nurse. Some may have clever and creative ways of connecting with others on social media platforms, while others may engage with their inner circle of coworkers, community, and family. 

Ideas for educating others: 

  • Create and manage a social media page. 
  • Write for a local or regional newspaper. 
  • Establish an initiative within the community to raise awareness. 
  • Conduct a class at a community center. 
  • Volunteer at shelters or humanitarian groups. 
  • Speak at colleges or schools on topics of interest. 

Research and evidence-based practice in the foundation of policy development. There are opportunities for nurses to become involved in clinical research on treatments, pharmaceuticals, disease processes, and many other medical initiatives.  

Engage in self-reflection 

If you feel passionate about a healthcare issue, it is important to recognize that your voice is extremely important. A self-assessment is helpful, so ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Are you familiar with how policy is made? 
  2. Does the process of healthcare policy development interest you? 
  3. Do you know who creates policy at your workplace and in your community? 
  4. Would you enjoy this field as a career? 
  5. Are you comfortable with writing or calling a legislator about issues impacting patient care? 
  6. Could you be a meaningful team member or leader on a committee? 

Nurses can be unconventional, creative, and assertive in accepting a role in healthcare policy. You can pursue a career in healthcare policy or voluntarily dedicate your time and efforts. Regardless of your background, education, and availability, there is an opportunity for all nurses to have an impact in healthcare policy. 


  • American Nursing Association (ANA). (n.d.). Health policy. Retrieved from 
  • Mason, D. J., Gardner, D. B., Outlaw, F. H., & O’Grady, E. T. (Eds.). (2016). Policy & politics in nursing and health care (Seventh edition.). Elsevier. 
  • Oermann, M. H., Wrigley, J., Nicoll, L. H., Ledbetter, L. S., Carter-Templeton, H., & Edie, A. H. (2021). Integrity of databases for literature searches in nursing: Avoiding predatory journals. ANS. Advances in nursing science, 44(2), 102–110. 
  • Ryan, A., & Antonelli, M. (2023). Critical reflection practice in nursing health care policy education. Journal of Nursing Education, 62(5), 312-315. 
  • Seibert, D., Malone, B., DeLeon, P., & DeLeon, P. (2022). Shaping nursing healthcare policy: a view from the inside (D. Seibert, B. Malone, & P. DeLeon, Eds.). Academic Press.