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How to Become a Health Policy Nurse

Career News October 24, 2013

For nurses with an interest in improving policies governing health care, a career as a health policy nurse could be ideal. Healthcare policy can prove a challenging and exciting path for a BSN MSN registered nurse (RN).

Health Policy Nursing

Nurses who specialize in healthcare policy have the opportunity to assume a number of managerial roles, according to Johnson & Johnson. Their work can include analyzing laws, regulations and public policies at the federal, state or local level. Some develop strategies aimed at changing public policy as advocates. Another key role is planning and implementing new health policies.

The University of Mary indicates that health policy nurses are registered nurses who evaluate existing public health policies and change them. In order to begin a career in this specialty, a nurse needs to be structured and research-oriented. Other important characteristics include the ability work behind the scenes, the capacity to manage projects and a multifaceted background.

Career Options

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the employment setting for most RNs is a hospital or other medical environment such as a doctor’s office or a school. While this experience is necessary for entering health policy nursing, nurses who pursue this specialty typically work behind the scenes instead of having one-on-one contact with patients. Their environment is usually an office setting without the long hours and deadlines associated with clinical nursing.

Qualified health policy nurses work in a wide variety of places. These are common options:

Health services research firms:

RNs utilize research techniques to perform detailed analysis of public policies regarding health care. They evaluate existing policies and attempt to change them when necessary.

Regulatory and legislative offices:

Using their knowledge of nursing, RNs advise legislators on issues pertaining to healthcare policy, develop legislation, and serve as consultants on issues related to nursing.

Healthcare provider associations:

Health policy nursing offers RNs the opportunity to identify ways of improving healthcare for all patients.
Advocacy groups:

Nurses serve as advocates for people underserved by existing healthcare policies.

Other settings in which experienced RNs, in health policy, work are think tanks, schools of nursing, and special-interest groups. Some are attorneys working in a government, corporate or law firm environment, according to The American Association of Nurse Attorneys.

Training and Experience

Johnson & Johnson indicates that the first step to entering the health policy nursing specialization is earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). To begin working as an RN, a candidate should next pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

The next step in the career path is earning a master of science in nursing (MSN). This degree should include classes plus a health policy residency with community groups, advocacy organizations, government offices or other applicable organizations. While not required to become a health policy nurse, a doctorate in nursing (Ph.D.) is important, as it shows leadership as a nurse.

According to the University of Mary, individuals who want to enter health policy nursing should have at least several years’ experience working as an RN. The university considers an MSN with a concentration in health policy the minimum educational credential to enter this specialty. Students pursuing the specialty should be sure to take courses in specific areas.

Among them are dilemmas in ethics, health economics, policies addressing race and class, communications and policy leadership, policy and research utilization and health policy theories and research. A student should also work directly with a health policy nurse.

Helpful electives should pertain to policies issues like long-term care, comparative health, aging and tobacco control.

An MSN curriculum includes a number of research techniques and processes for developing health policy. While completing an internship or residency, students gain experience with how policies are formed, revoked and altered.
Some colleges and universities provide an alternative path to this career. They offer interdisciplinary graduate health policy certificates to students in all academic areas working on a graduate degree.

The Future

The employment outlook for those who become health policy nurses is bright. Salary varies according to the nurse’s position, experience and employer, the University of Mary says. While nurses in this specialty who have worked one to five years average $49,400 annually, those with more than 10 years’ experience earn about $70,000 a year.

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