The purpose of this paper is to draw up a political competency development plan by reflecting on my professional skills acquired through education and nursing practice and translating them into opportunities for improving healthcare outcomes. The need for nurses to develop political competencies has been recognized by scholars since “nurses are well-qualified to participate in developing health policy by applying their knowledge of the health-care system and their analytic and communication skills” (Ellenbecker et al., 2017, p. 44).
The competency development plan is valuable for supporting the professional formation of the DNP practice scholar because it delineates strengths and serves as a guide for building political capital and preparing for practicing as a DNP-educated nurse. The DNP practice scholar has a significant role in political advocacy, acting as a “clinical expert, practitioner, translator of research, leader, advocate, analyst, educator, mentor, and role model” (Ellenbecker et al., 2017, p. 52). At this highest level of nursing practice, specialists engage in developing national policies, advocating for the nation’s health, and participating in national professional organizations (Ellenbecker et al., 2017). The current plan will outline the steps necessary to succeed in political advocacy.
Nursing Expertise and Health Policy Advocacy
Nurses are the bedrock of the US healthcare system, and their expertise is of great value in health policy. The number of nurses employed in the healthcare industry is larger than the share of any other medical professionals (Disch, 2019). Nurses provide patient care in all healthcare settings and have much knowledge about how the entire system works (Disch, 2019). It allows nurses to see issues in the healthcare industry, which cannot be noticed by specialists not involved in patient care directly.
As a result, nurses are usually the first to recognize the need for change and may suggest optimal ways of implementing new policies. Furthermore, nurses serve as advocates for patients and the nursing profession, which makes them support policies that improve public health and healthcare communities (Ellenbecker et al., 2017). Nursing expertise, combined with leadership skills, is the resource, with which nurses can improve healthcare delivery.
Since nurses thoroughly know the subtleties of care delivery and the operation of healthcare facilities, they can make a significant contribution to the development of health policies. The way nurses see medical practice allows them to suggest viable healthcare improvement strategies. Policies developed without nurses’ participation often tend to be impractical, costly, and unrealistic, so it may be impossible to follow them (Disch, 2019).
Although nurses are mistakenly considered to have little influence on implementing healthcare reforms, they actually have great potential to foster policy changes through communicating issues to nursing administrators and legislators (Disch, 2019). Thus, nursing expertise is an essential factor that helps policymakers to make the right feasible decisions during the process of developing health policies.
Nurses should also advocate for policies designed to mitigate the negative effects of social determinants influencing public health and well-being. Social determinants refer to such factors as “income, social support, early childhood development, education, employment, housing and gender” (Andermann, 2016, p. 1). Generally, people who are poor, disabled, low-educated, uninsured, unemployed, or socially disconnected experience multiple health problems and have a lower life expectancy (Williams, Phillips & Koyama, 2018). Social determinants are considered the root causes of many diseases and health inequalities, and nurses are empowered to intervene in patients’ situations leading to poor health outcomes (Williams et al., 2018).
These interventions can be made at the patient level by helping patients to get access to benefits and social services and at the community level by raising awareness of health inequalities and developing policies to address them (Andermann, 2016). For example, nurses may educate the public about the deplorable consequences of child poverty, including inhibited cognitive and behavioral development, and advocate for policies providing educational and employment opportunities for parents and child health insurance (Williams et al., 2018). Hence, nurses’ policy advocacy is essential for addressing negative social determinants.
Self-Reflection on the Strengths and Strategy Plan
To be successfully involved in health policy development and advocacy, nurses have to possess practice experience and leadership skills. I have been practicing as a nurse for 15 years and gained much professional knowledge and expertise during my practice. Moreover, I have a strong educational base, including the completed FNP program. My knowledge and experience allow me to see the gaps in care delivery and identify mistakes in the work of healthcare providers.
During my years of nursing practice, I have also developed strong leadership skills manifested in my ability to advocate for patients and communicating the nursing staff’s concern to healthcare administrators. These strengths can contribute to my political activism in the field of improving health policies. My experience in the nursing practice will help me to identify the areas to which I should apply the gained political competencies, and my leadership skills will allow me to implement the necessary changes in care delivery.
Nurses also have to be able to develop relationships and collaboration to gain the necessary support in advocating for the right health policies and encourage policymakers to pay attention to their voices. As a nurse, I have learned to establish good relationships with patients and their families, as well as with the healthcare administration and the medical staff involved in other disciplines, such as physicians, therapists, etc. I have also succeeded in collaborating with other healthcare specialists in dealing with various problems related to patient care. My skills in relationship building and cooperation will help me to establish productive partnerships with individuals and organizations involved in policy-making and incorporate the necessary changes in health policies.
Effective communication is also crucial for nurses involved in policy development and advocacy. Communication is generally understood as the process of sharing information; however, to be effective, communication should go beyond simply stating facts. I believe that to be an effective communicator a person should be able to get on the right side of the interlocutor, listen carefully, and use various means of persuasion to prove his or her point of view.
As for me, I consider effective communication to be one of my key strengths because I always listen to patients’ and personnel’s complaints, inform the administration of the emerging issues, as well as gather and present data needed to persuade responsible people of the need for change. The skills of effective communication can be utilized for improving my political competency because it will help me to convey my vision of the necessary changes to others, listen to the concerns of the stakeholders, prove the soundness of my ideas, and effectively advocate for patients and the nursing profession.
Persistence and persuasion are also critical for DNP-prepared nurses willing to succeed in improving health outcomes through the development and modification of policies. Persuasion can be considered an essential component of effective communication since nurses apply their skills in arranging and conveying facts in such a way as to convince others of the rightness of their points. As for persistence, I believe that it is the ability of nurses not to give up their efforts toward implementing policy changes if they firmly believe that these changes will improve public health and care delivery. I have demonstrated persistence and persuasion many times throughout my career as a nurse, and these strengths will help me to bring the necessary policy changes to completion and integrate nurses’ voices into policies.
Competency Development Plan
To improve my political competency, I have to develop networking skills. They are related to the development of strong professional relationships, which is necessary for advocating for policy and may add weight to a nurse’s opinion on policy issues and changes. I can develop my networking skills by participating in professional conferences, webinars, and workshops, as well as building relationships with other professionals and share working experiences with them.
I plan to monitor the oncoming conferences and webinars and attend at least two of them concerned with the issues and improvements in patient care. I will also use these webinars as the opportunity to become acquainted with experienced healthcare specialists and establish and maintain good professional relationships with them. Sharing experience and acquiring new knowledge from colleagues will help me to identify more gaps in patient care and suggest better options for policy development.
I also want to improve my skill of persuasion since it determines whether nurses succeed in getting their messages over to policymakers. When trying to implement changes in policies, nurses often face the problem that policymakers consider such areas as economic growth or industry development more important than healthcare issues (Crammond & Carey, 2017). To be able to overcome this obstacle, I am going to practice my rhetorical skills in my workplace by trying to appeal to logic, authority, and emotions of those whom I want to persuade. I will also practice listening carefully to understand the motivation that drives their decisions.
The next skill that I need to acquire is the development of perspective on a healthcare policy. To develop this skill, I plan to critically analyze some of the health policies and write policy briefs to inform legislators and staff on important health issues. For example, I can collect evidence on how the social determinant of food security influences health outcomes and provide evidence-based recommendations on policies related to school or federal nutrition programs.
Finally, I have to improve my skill of persistence; more specifically, I need to gain knowledge on how to know that my political efforts bring positive results, even if they look different from what I expected. At present, I consider myself successful in implementing change if I managed to achieve precisely what I intended. I plan to develop a better awareness of political gains by critically evaluating the attained outcomes. I am going to interview patients and staff after the implementation of any reform initiated by me to mark positive changes.
To sum up, nurses can have an important role in developing and modifying policies to improve health outcomes. Nurses have a thorough knowledge of the issues in patient care and processes in the healthcare system. They are also empowered to address the adverse health outcomes of social determinants through changes in policies. Therefore, nursing expertise is a crucial contributor to the health and well-being of society.
To become an effective DNP-prepared nurse, I need to acquire such skills as networking, persuasion, persistence, and the development of perspective on a healthcare policy. Thus, I am planning to attend professional webinars and conferences, establish professional relationships, practice my rhetorical skills in the workplace, critically analyze social policies, and evaluate the results of changes in care delivery.
Andermann, A. (2016). Taking action on the social determinants of health in clinical practice: A framework for health professionals. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 188(17-18), 1-10. Web.
Crammond, B., & Carey, G. (2017). Policy change for the social determinants of health: The strange irrelevance of social epidemiology. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 13(2), 365-374. Web.
Disch, J. (2019). Nursing leadership in policy formation. Nursing Forum, 55(1), 1-7. Web.
Ellenbecker, C. H., Fawcett, J., Jones, E. J., Mahoney, D., Rowlands, B., & Waddell, A. (2017). A staged approach to educating nurses in health policy. Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice, 18(1), 44-56. Web.
Williams, S. D., Phillips, J. M., & Koyama, K. (2018). Nurse advocacy: Adopting a health in all policies approach. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 23(3). Web.