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The 4 P’s of Health Policy: Let’s Get This (Dance) Party Started!

As academic nurses, we all hear about how our research should influence policy but nursing as a profession has shied away from policy – mainly because of the politics and the complicated process of how legislation works in the United States.
Nurses need to be engaged in policy, but just like showing up at the high school dance, you don’t just jump out there on the dance floor until you’ve had time to check out the scene. You figure out the dance moves, maybe start off with the #SafetyDance, and before long, you are a dancing machine! Here are 5 steps to get you started:

Word Up: Here’s the Scoop
I am going to break it down for you and give you some helpful resources for monitoring Policy, (re-) learning about the Process, the Politics, and the Press.

Snooze…to Talking In Your Sleep
Before you check out, here are a few short cuts for staying informed about key federal policies relevant to your work.
And sometimes, the whole thing is really interesting. For example, I was doing my policy check-in last night and found out that the House and the Senate introduced bills to legalize and regulate marijuana products like alcohol. Ordinarily, this news wouldn’t make my radar, except these bills are both numbered 420; and that, my friends, was cleverly orchestrated when you think about the process and politics it took to get this policy introduced to Congress.

Step 1: Walk This Way.
The Twittersphere is where a lot of news is posted, and your reps are using social media. Do you have a few minutes while you are waiting for someone, riding public transportatoin, taking that Uber to the airport? That’s the perfect time to check out Twitter.
Find and follow your reps, Federal Level: Go to WhoIsMyRepresentative – enter your zip code and this will tell you who your U.S. Congressional Representatives are (U.S. House and U.S. Senate).
Professional and advocacy organizations are also great for helping keep you informed. This is a service to their members, but you can follow them on Twitter for free. Here’s a few to get you started:            @AAN_Nursing 

Step 2: How Will I Know? (about The Policies)
Download an app called Countable (also free). Set up your account, your federal representatives will be identified, and you can sign up to get email alerts or notifications every time your representative votes.
At the federal level, you can go to and create an account. You can use the search bar to enter key words or find specific legislation that you are interested in and stay informed by opting to “Get Alerts” on the page. Then you will be emailed anytime anything happens on this legislation.

Step 3: Learning to Moon Walk (The Process)
If you need a refresher, this will bring back memories (for some of us, if you were alive in the ‘70’s): Schoolhouse Rocks I’m Just a Bill. And a grown up version is available through the Library of Congress with another (short!) video to knock the Legislative Process cobwebs off from high school.

Step 4: Who’s Zooming Who (The Politics)
While not our favorite part of the policy world, politics is a factor. Knowing how to play the game and who the players are matters – just think about the progress made for Full Practice Authority for NPs in recent years.
Bills are numbered in the order they come in, so for that House and Senate Bill to both get 420 – somebody was paying attention and planned this going into the 116th Congress in January.

Step 5:  Word Up: (The Press)
All jokes aside, there are those within the profession of nursing who have addressed regulatory implications for both recreational and medical marijuana; should marijuana be legalized, and other considerations with this policy move.
Regardless of your opinion, it is imperative that nurses be heard - use your voice and engage with your representatives, professional organizations, and advocacy groups, on the topics that you find using these steps. Your emails, phone calls, visits to state and federal leaders do matter! This is one more way nursing can influence policy to improve the health and well-being of our fellow Americans!



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