The purpose of this phenomenological study was to determine the impact an undergraduate baccalaureate level nursing course in health policy and political involvement had on registered nurses political astuteness and involvement. Theoretical framework by Cohen, Mason, Kovner, Leavitt, Pulcini, and Sochalski (1996) Stages of Nursing's Political Involvement
was utilized to analyze nurses’ political development and level of participation in the political processes upon completion of the course and entry into practice. Five distinct overarching themes emerged from the data, inclusive of: (1) Education as a foundation to political advocacy: inclusive of political awareness and significance of health policy education; (2) Health policy involvement: organizational involvement and legislative involvement were identified; (3) Characteristics of a politically involved nurse: self-confidence, and political knowledge; (4) Perceived barriers to political involvement included: organizational barriers, fear of retribution, shortage of mentors, and lack of time; and (5) Academia leading the way: educator role and academic inclusion of health policy experiences.
Results indicated that undergraduate health policy education was a valued component of the registered nurses education, yet few colleges and universities offer this preparation at the undergraduate level. Since the completion of the course, (4 years post-graduation) participants have utilized their health policy/political foundation and political voice to pursue health policy roles within their health care organizations and on a local, state or federal level to positively impact health policy.
Findings of this study have significant implications for academia, healthcare facilities, and professional nursing organizations. Assessment of their current professional environments, inclusive of political climate and education, relative to political knowledge and curriculum needs to be undertaken. It is essential to close the knowledge gap whether through a standalone course or infusion of health policy/political domains within existing course work. In doing so, this would promote the knowledge necessary for nurses to lead the way as future advocates for the profession, nursing practice, and quality patient care.