From Patient Advocacy to Political Advocacy

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Dale M. Mueller, EdD, MSN, MS, RN
School of Nursing, College of Health, Human Services and Nursing, California State University Dominguez Hills, Carson, CA, USA

Nurses identify themselves as patient advocates, but fewer nurses identify themselves as political advocates. Using the Political Astuteness Inventory (PAI) in a health policy course across three years, pre and post scores were gathered to identify students' basic understanding of political astuteness, how their understanding may have changed by the end of the course and how skill development in the political arena increased by introducing "hands-on" advocacy activities within the course. A total of 436 nurses have participated with 78% between 20 and 39 years of age, 58% having practiced <5 years, and 84% registered to vote. Only 49% were aware of health care issues at the state or national level, only 21% knew who to contact among elected officials regarding input on local, state or national issues and only 4% knew on which committees their elected federal officials were serving. While student awareness did increase in post-course scores, the voting age in the USA is 18 and most voters do not take an additional course at the university level to become aware of national issues concerning issues of interest to them. Improvements to the course curriculum were made in year #2 and post-course scores do show an even greater level of awareness once these course changes were made. A concern remains that not all nurses who vote are able to enrich their knowledge through a senior level health policy course, so building awareness among all nurses regardless of academic preparation or area of service about potential positive impacts in the policy arena continues to be an area ripe for professional growth.