What do nurses do in the workplace? The answer might be surprising. While nurses spend a lot of time with their patients, ensuring they are as healthy as possible, they also work hard to change the system from within. Since nurses see firsthand how policies and regulations impact their patients, many become extremely committed to effecting change to better the experiences their patients encounter within the healthcare system. Advocating for patients and lobbying for policy changes are one aspect of a nurse’s job. Some take this more seriously than others, but most nurses recognize that their patients need as much help as possible to receive the respect and care they deserve.
Why is it important for nurses to understand the socio-political and economic influences on healthcare and how can they use this knowledge to drive positive change in the system? From advocating for their patients to leading their fellow healthcare professionals, collected herein are some of the most important and notable ways that nurses can operate within the system to push for transformation and innovation.
What are the socio-political and economic influences on healthcare?
Before diving into how nurses transform the industry, we should first discuss the way in which various socio-political and economic influences impact the healthcare industry. Just as politics and money (or a lack of) impact the everyday lives of U.S. citizens, they can also impact how the healthcare industry works. This issue is recently becoming a wider public discussion involving people in every aspect of the system (and, indeed, society as a whole), but it is not a new issue. In fact, analysis techniques designed to review internal performance and how external forces impact it have increased in popularity over the past few decades. One of the most used of these tools is the PESTELI technique.
The term “PESTELI” is an acronym:
- Ecological concerns
- Industry analysis
The acronym refers to the types of external factors influencing healthcare. The political and social factors that influence health are combined into the “socio-political” sphere. While mainly concerned with the political, economic, and social factors and the way they influence healthcare, it is a good idea to remember that this topic is not a simple one to discuss. Many factors combine to create a highly interconnected environment within which the healthcare system operates. Of the factors illustrated above, however, it is believed that politics, the economy, and social determinants most impact the care people receive.
Socio-political factors consist of political and social determinants that define how someone lives, the resources available to them, and the laws and regulations that impact their lives. Politics, in particular, can define what medical acts are accepted and which are either looked down upon or banned outright. This, in turn, impacts how society views these procedures along with the people who need them. For years the stigma surrounding mental healthcare made it nearly impossible for anyone to seek help without being labeled as “crazy” and losing their respect and stature in their communities. Now that the politics around mental health have changed, this is no longer true.
Issues such as the above impact different healthcare areas and different patients at any given time. If the political climate shifts against mental healthcare in the future, the care patients receive for those concerns will dramatically change. Furthermore, as public opinion shifts regarding mental health treatment, so will people’s willingness to seek help.
These are the ways in which social and political concerns impact the healthcare that people seek and receive. Another factor to consider is how the economy impacts the industry.
In addition to the socio-political influences described above, the economy also impacts patient’s health. First, many people find it more difficult to pay their bills as the cost of living skyrockets across much of the country. This naturally impacts the healthcare they seek out and the extent of the care they can fund. This limit is also impacted by the economy at large. When money is tight and organizations are struggling, the financial aid and other resources offered at hospitals and other medical facilities dwindles. As a result, people who might otherwise qualify for affordable care find themselves with little recourse.
Not only does the economy influence the decisions people make about their health but it also impacts the choices that are available to them. Without adequate resources, some people are unable to receive care at all.
It’s not all bad, of course. The medical industry is actively adopting new technology and new medical education techniques designed to lower entry into the field and, by extension, the expenses related to onboarding and their financial impact on patients. Robots and other advanced technology are becoming more commonplace, too, and can often save hospitals and other medical facilities a significant amount of money over time. This frees up more money to be used to help patients who cannot otherwise afford to pay for their healthcare needs.
Why do nurses need to understand these influences?
It’s well known that socio-political and economic factors influence healthcare, but why should anyone care? If you’re wondering why nurses should be concerned about these issues at all, this article offers a comprehensive overview of the reasons why socio-political and economic healthcare policy is so important, and the steps nurses can take to enact change.
First, nurses should pay attention to outside influences because it impacts how they do their job. While relatively few of them choose to engage in politics, it cannot be ignored completely. Sometimes regulations are signed that directly alter the way nurses provide care. Sometimes these changes are for the better, but oftentimes they make their lives more difficult. Paying attention to the socio-political and economic issues that impact the healthcare industry prepares nurses for likely changes and alerts them to the need for professional or patient advocacy in response.
Another reason nurses need to understand external influences is their impact on their patients. Nurses aren’t the only people affected by a change in routine or regulation; sometimes patients struggle more than nurses do with these challenges. The good news is that nurses who are aware of the factors influencing changes are often able to demonstrate why the policy is bad and how it is negatively impacting their patients. Nurses are uniquely situated to provide this information, in fact, because they often spend the most time with patients compared to physicians or specialists.
Taking the time to understand these concerns makes advocating for policy change much easier. Knowing the reasons behind a policy change allows for a better understanding of who to contact to effect a change and the best tactics to use in arguments.
How do nurses impact healthcare policy?
Considering the above, what can nurses do to shape healthcare policy? There are several ways that nurses affect policy, including rigorous advocacy, pushing for better public health initiatives, and leading other medical professionals to demand change. It is important not to overlook the importance of goal flexibility, too, as external circumstances change the way the profession operates.
One of the biggest roles nurses play in policy creation and implementation is that of the patient advocate. Since nurses spend so much time with their patients, often seeing the same patients day in and day out, nurses are perfectly positioned to take note of the ways in which a new policy or change affects them. Often these negative side effects are unexpected by the people making the rules. Sometimes a new policy or health initiative seems like a good idea only to have the unintended impact of increasing social stigma or increasing the burden on patients.
Nurses do more than recognize when an existing policy is harmful. They are also well-placed to notice gaps in care. Sometimes a specific community is underserved and in dire need of additional regulations and health initiatives to help them thrive. Nurses are typically able to see these needs clearly and can better communicate these concerns than people outside the healthcare industry are often able to.
As patient advocates, nursing professionals fight for their patients’ rights and use their experience working in various communities to determine how well a policy is working and where new ones should be created.
While nurses’ number one role should always be championing for their patients’ rights and needs, nurses also often serve as advocates for each other. Nursing is an industry with tight-knit communities across the country. Since so many are impacted in the same way by policies and regulations, nurses are often ready and willing to stand up for themselves and their fellow nursing professionals. There are a few different ways that nursing leaders can impact the work environment to benefit both nurse and patient.
Nurse leaders protect their nursing staff when it comes to new policy implementation and changes. Patients are, understandably, considered the most important people in a hospital unit, but nurses run the show. When nurses are burned out or demoralized, their work begins to suffer, and patients are the first to experience that impact. They are the people who will see a decline in care and potentially have their health outcomes negatively impacted. Effective nursing leaders understand this and work to protect their staff so that their staff can protect their patients. This is especially true where policies or regulation changes impact their working environment directly.
Another area where nursing leaders take a stand is in nursing education. With technology rapidly advancing and radically changing the face of nursing education, existing nurses are often able to detect positive or detrimental changes in rookie nurses. If they notice gaps in knowledge, for example, they are the people positioned to make some noise about it and change education meaningfully.
Nurses can shape policy and advocate for patient health through online adult nurse practitioner programs, which have a significant impact on their profession. People interested in discovering what modern nursing education has to offer, can research reputable institutions such as the University of Indianapolis. This university ensures that its graduates are trained in theory and practice to perform expert health assessments, family histories, and clinical reasoning.
Most nurses excel in communication. This makes them ideal candidates for interacting with people within and outside of the nursing industry. Nurses can perhaps best effect change by building relationships with the people who create the policies and approach conversations with their goals and needs in mind. The most effective leaders can channel their nursing communication and empathy skills to form strong ties.
If interested in learning more about how nurses can innovate the system from the inside out by navigating the difficulties socio-political and economic influences have in healthcare, it’s best to dig into the specific policymakers in one’s region. Beginning at the facility, regional, state, and federal levels, and not being afraid to reach out to big names, politely and respectfully, to express concerns.