GW Nursing is a publication of the George Washington University School of Nursing. The magazine tells the story of GW nurses and their endeavors in the areas of education, research, policy and practice.
HEALTH CARE POLICY AND NURSING: A RIGHTFUL PLACE AT THE TABLE Nursing 10 /
“Anyone who tries to solve the issues of the health care delivery system without nurses at the table is being worse than irresponsible. They are incompetent.” —Nursing workforce researcher Jack Needleman, Chair, Department of Health Policy and Management, UCLA School of Public Health Health policy—formed and informed by the actions of policymakers and influencers—is the bedrock on which the nation’s health care system is structured, delivered and funded. As with all policy, it is not immutable; it is changeable, responding to the vicissitudes of politics and values, to new discoveries, data and analytics and to popular opinion and public activism. History is rife with examples. Hospitals, established initially to safeguard the public from people with mental illnesses or communicable diseases, became places of healing. Public health programs, which arose at the dawn of the industrial era to promote sanitation and reduce acute illnesses and epidemics in crowded cities, today emphasize health promotion and chronic disease reduction. While nurses have consistently exerted significant influence over policies on behalf of their patients and the public, history illustrates that nurses not invited to the table often resorted to indirect or circuitous routes to achieve that influence. WAXING AND WANING OF THE NURSE’S ROLE From the Civil War era through the early 20th century, individual nurses stepped up as founders, architects and framers of health care practice and policy. Professor Diana Mason, nurse and co-director of the new George Washington School of Nursing Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement, calls them “visionaries who recognized the health needs of vulnerable populations and pressured policymakers to respond to those needs.” Florence Nightingale influenced the public through her horrific accounts of medical care during the nursing.gwu.edu / 11