Health Policy

The health policy arena is a growing role for the nursing profession, as nurses with policy expertise are assuming roles of leadership and advocacy, analysis, research and policy development. They are also involved in implementation and follow-up evaluation.

The type of employment for a Health Policy Nurse is working for health services research firms, legislative offices, health care providers, associations or some will even hold an elected office. Some of the skills necessary for this type of work include analyzing healthcare laws, regulations and public policies. These nurses will also devise strategies in order to advocate policy changes, and they will plan and implement new health policies.

If you are considering getting a Master’s degree in this field, it might be helpful to understand some of the job characteristics that will help you to succeed. These nurses are typically, multifaceted, structured, work well behind-the-scenes, have managerial skills and are research–oriented. Some other attributes that may be helpful are leadership skills, self-confidence and good organizational techniques.

The health policy specialty prepares students to provide policy leadership in a variety of settings, such as learning to identify and critically analyze laws, regulations and policies at the institutional, local, state and international levels. These students are prepared to use in-depth knowledge of the history, structure, theory and process of health policy–making in the United States.

Health Policy Nurses will learn about current policy issues that impact nursing and the delivery of health care; plus the way policy is made. The nurses will also learn to lead and influence the development of health policy using effective advocacy in the political process.

The American Nurses Association has been advocating for decades to achieve health care reforms that would guarantee access to high-quality care for everyone. They have been very politically active and have testified before Congress and the legislature in many states on health care reform, immigration, Medicare/Medicaid and safe patient handling and mobility, to name just a few topics that required testimony. This organization has made a major impact on healthcare, and becoming a Health Policy Nurse can put you into the center of the actions that shape the future of healthcare. If you are interested in the politics of healthcare, getting a master’s degree in Health Policy Nursing will give you the tools to succeed.

Curriculum for Health Policy Nurses

Several nursing schools and universities offer programs in Health Care Policy, including the University of California, San Francisco. Application and acceptance is highly competitive, and the necessary documentation and required transcripts must be received before the applicant’s records will be reviewed.

The requirements for admission to UC-SF and other schools that offer Health Policy MSNs typically include:

  • Official transcripts verifying the Baccalaureate degree from an NLN or CCNE accredited program in nursing
  • An RN license in California or home state of residency
  • Completion within the past five years an introductory college–level course in statistics
  • Proficiency in English is mandatory
  • Evidence of personal qualification and capacity for graduate study, as reflected in the application, references and a GPA of 3.0 or better
  • Past academic performance, professional activity, community, organizational and volunteer services and creative professional accomplishments are evaluated
  • Congruence of applicant’s goals with the goals and resources of the School and University
  • A minimum of one year working experience as an RN, related to the area of specialization is desirable
  • Computer proficiency is required

The core curriculum to earn your Master’s degree in Health Policy may include the following:

  • Courses in Communication and Policy Leadership
  • Ethical Dilemmas & Nursing
  • Health Care Economics and Policy
  • Health Economics
  • Health Policy Research
  • Policy Seminar and Practicum
  • Policy Residency
  • Policy Research Utilization
  • Race and Class Factors in Health Care
  • Theories of the Policy Process

Students may choose to take elective courses, such as Comparative Health Care Systems, Economics of Manage Care, Ethics and Policy in genetics, and Health Care Institutions, Long Term Care Policies, Perspectives on Social Policy and Health, Social Policy and Aging and Tobacco Control Policy Issues. Then, the students must complete a 10-week health policy residency. The academic coursework necessary is 30 to 36 units, eight units of graduate professional work and a written comprehensive examination.

The residency may involve working in policy settings that include: legislative and regulatory offices, advocacy organizations, health care organizations, community organizations, foundations involved in setting agendas for funding policy–related research and programs and professional associations. These residencies emphasize the application of policy skills in a real-world setting. Some of the students that have graduated completed their residencies in Sacramento, Washington DC and Geneva at the World Health Organization.

Benedictine University also has a Health Management and Policy online program designed for healthcare professionals who seek to participate in and influence policy development. This university offers a broad base of knowledge across many disciplines as this field requires professionals that have the skill and knowledge to assess the adequacy of current practices and the knowledge to recommend appropriate changes based on societal needs, relevant laws and regulations and cost effectiveness.

Their Health Management and Policy Certificates require 16 credit hours and the classes include:

  • Public Health Systems (4 credits)
  • Health Policy (4 credits)
  • Management of Health Services Organizations (4 credits)
  • The Business of Health Care Delivery or Marketing of Health Services (Choice of course)
  • These courses may be completed as one component of your master’s degree in nursing. All practicum hours can be completed at an organization of your own choosing to complete your master’s degree.

    The American Association of College of Nursing states there are 159 programsavailable nationwide for RNs to transition to a master’s degree level. These programs prepare nurses to assume graduate preparation as health policy consultants and numerous other nursing roles. These programs typically take three years to complete with specific requirements, which vary from one institution to another.

    Each college and university has a financial aid office and if you are in need of financial aid the first step is completing the FAFSA application, which will evaluate your finances and the finances of your parents. Pell grants are often given to needy students.

    The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has a website that lists several financial aid options and resources. Many universities offer scholarships, such as Vanderbilt University. They offer six full tuition scholarships each year and also part-time scholarships.

    The Nurse Corps Scholarship Program has scholarships that pay the tuition, fees and other educational costs, plus a monthly stipend of $1302 for the 2014–2015 school year in exchange for the graduate to work for a minimum of two years in any Critical Shortage Facility. The Health Resources and Services Administration have a loan repayment program for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. They also have Health Professions Student Loans, which are student loans provided long-term at low interest rates to full-time, financially needy students.

    Job Availability, Projected Growth, Salary Information & Licensure for Health Policy Nurses

    The Medical and Health Services Managers or health policy executives earned a mean average income of $88,580 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.

    Health Policy nurses work in such diverse jobs that is quite possible the income would be higher in some instances, especially once you have gained experience. These nurses are sought after as they can evaluate the impact of healthcare policy changes to advocate for patients and organizations as well.

    They may work for consulting firms, educational foundations, health departments, nonprofit groups, and governmental organizations in a wide variety of roles. They may work with lobbyists or politicians, and they may enter into the academic world. There is a vast range of tasks Health Policy Nurses can perform in many of these jobs, and they do not have to worry about job security as this field is wide open and growing.

    The American Nurses credentialing Center does not have a certification that is precisely for a Health Policy Nurse, but they do have a certificate for Nursing Professional Development and one for Advanced Nurse Executives. This credentialed award (NEA-BC) is given after you pass the board certified computer examination, and it is a competency based examination that provides a valid and reliable assessment of knowledge and skills. This credential is valid for five years.

    If you are a member of the American Nurses Association the cost of the examination is $270 and for nonmembers it is $395. When you complete your application, you must also include your college degree with the conferred transcripts. The examination is 175 questions, but 25 are pretest questions that are not scored, and you are allowed 3.5 hours to complete the test. There are practice questions and a course for test taking strategies available online.

    The Public Policy Nurse can have a very exciting career as there are so many career paths to choose from after graduation. This is certainly a career that will give you great satisfaction and the respect of your peers. It is a chance to be an advocate as a policy maker and as a healthcare administrator. Request information from schools today to learn more about your wide variety of options to enter the field of Healthcare Policy.