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Overview of the Health Policy Nurse Profession

Career News October 28, 2013

One of the specialties growing in popularity in the nursing profession is that of health policy nurse. Nurses who are trained in this specialty can become leaders in policy evaluation, development and implementation. They can also step into leadership roles in health research, analysis and advocacy.

Health Policy Nursing

Health policy nurses work in a variety of settings such as legislative and regulatory offices, research firms, health care trade associations, advocacy groups, nursing schools, think tanks and health maintenance organizations, according to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Nursing. Some become attorneys or hold an elective office.

The best characteristics to have when interested in health policy nursing are being research-oriented, multifaceted and structured, Johnson & Johnson reports. Having the capability to both be a manager and work behind the scenes is also important. These nurses must be able to grasp economic, social and ethical issues connected to policy determinations before developing ways to implement changes.

The workload of health policy nurses might include analyzing applicable laws, public policies or regulations. Such nurses might be responsible for creating strategies to change existing policy and implementing new health policies at the national, state or local level, the UCSF says.

Career Entry

The starting point for an individual interested in becoming a health policy nurse is becoming a registered nurse (RN). The University of Mary indicates that the minimum credential required is a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) instead of an associate degree or even shorter academic program.

Once the prospective nurse has earned a BSN, he or she must pass the National Council Licensure Examination, known as NCLEX-RN. Most RNs have several years of experience before starting to work in health policy.

Health Policy Education

According to Johnson & Johnson, candidates seeking to become health policy nurses need more than a BSN. They need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, which includes both coursework and a health policy residency. While a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing isn’t necessary to find employment, this optional credential can be helpful for those who want to eventually move into leadership roles.

The MSN offered by the University of Mary includes a concentration in health policy. The school indicates that beyond required courses, students should choose electives pertinent to health policy issues such as aging, tobacco control, comparative health and long-term care. An MSN candidate should also work directly with a nurse employed in health policy.

The UCSF curriculum also offers a master’s degree with a specialization in health policy nursing. Students must complete courses such as communications and policy leadership, health care economics and policy, ethical dilemmas and nursing, health policy research, race and class factors in health care and health policy theory. Among the electives available to those in the health policy specialization are social policy and aging, health care institutions, long-term care policies, ethics and policy in genetics, comparative health care systems and the economics of managed care.

Some colleges and universities offer an alternative type of training. Students in any graduate academic program can earn an interdisciplinary graduate health policy certificate.

Practical Experience

RNs interested in health policy nursing must complete a related residency in addition to graduate-level classroom instruction. The standard health policy residency lasts 10 weeks.

The graduate nursing program places students in a variety of policy settings in order to get real-world experience. Most residencies occur in large cities such as Washington, D.C. The following are typical types of placements:

•Health care organizations
•Foundations involved in policy-related funding
•Professional and trade associations
•Legislative and regulatory offices
•Advocacy groups
•Community organizations

The Future

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the job outlook for RNs is bright, with an estimated 26 percent growth in employment between 2010 and 2020. According to the University of Mary, individuals who become health policy nurses can expect to enjoy a career with similar prospects.

The salary of a health policy nurse varies according to his or her position, employer and experience. The university indicates that nurses who have worked in health policy for one to five years can expect to earn an average of $49,400 a year. Those who have more than 10 years, experience typically receive around $70,000 annually.

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