A health policy nurse has a unique role within health care. They are responsible for taking their knowledge and skills with nursing and applying them towards public policies. They use research, experience, studies, and related tools to help them improve existing policies and work to enact needed policies. They use their position to strive to make healthcare better and more accessible to everyone and to advocate for those who might otherwise be underserved.
This position is unique because unlike most nurses who work directly with patients, they look more at overall health care for entire societies. They usually do not even work in traditional medical facilities such as doctor offices or hospitals. Many health policy nurses work with government bodies, think tanks, schools, and other special interest groups and organizations. Health policy nurses work primarily with studies and research in a more structured environment. Those interested in this field should be prepared to work long hours with tense deadlines and almost always require at least full time work.
To become a health policy nurse, the interested student must first obtain their bachelor’s degree in nursing, or BSN. Although people can become registered nurses with only an associate’s degree, this particular field is going to require advanced degree studies. To be admitted to an advanced graduate degree program, the applicant must have a bachelor’s degree. Once the student has obtained the BSN, they must also go on and pass their NCLEX to become a registered nurse. They will obtain their actual license from their local state board. Once the individual has become a registered nurse, they will need to enter a minimum of a master of science in nursing, or MSN degree, in health policy. Some people also choose instead to have a few years of experience as an RN before they enter their master’s degree program. This can help them get a better handle on the practicalities of nursing as well as prepare the future health policy nurse with experience of being a nurse before they begin working with policies. This experience can make them far more effective.
While the future health policy nurse is studying in the MSN program, they will be required to participate in internships and residencies. This additional, important information is often concentrated in a ten week intensive residency that is included in many master’s degree programs. These will often take place in various advocacy groups or government organizations, which will help familiarize the nurse with how the organizations function. They will also learn how policies are created, evaluated and changed, and how to analyze their effectiveness and the influence they are having on the general population and the quality of health care. The courses covered; deal with topics such as research methods and how health policy is developed. When the nurses finish their program, they are expected to be prepared to work with all disciplines in health care. They are also prepared to be leaders within their fields.
Advancing within the field
Those who are interested in becoming a health policy nurse do have the capacity to become high powered members of organizations and even elective offices. Those interested in reaching the highest parts of their organizations can continue on to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree in nursing. This advanced degree will prepare the student to an even higher degree to lead the organizations and understand all the factors that come into play when deciding public policy related to health care. It will open the individual up to many potential areas of advancement within the field.
The outlook for those interested in entering health policy nursing is very strong. The growth rate for all nurses is expected to be above the national average for the rest of the job market. When nurses first get started in health policy, they have an average salary of $49,400, but this quickly increases with experience. By ten years of experience, the average salary is about $70,000. As political discussion continues to focus around improving the quality of health care while also lowering cost, the need for health policy nurses will also grow at a strong rate. This is a positive sign for those considering this field.