It’s easy to overlook that many of the policies we see and hear in the news aren’t entirely decided by the policymakers we see every day. The actual power that initiates innovative ideas into action rests behind the spotlight, with purpose-driven civil servants and professionals.
Despite the many political, logistical, and psychological obstacles these decision-makers encounter, foundations, charities, social sector organizations, and professionals—including nurses— can influence their thinking and impact policy.
Thus, nurses, healthcare professionals and advocates must understand how to communicate with policymakers to contribute successfully to policymaking processes.
Hear first-hand information and insider tips straight from a Health and Aging Policy Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives, Alison Hernandez, PhD, RN, here at This Is Getting Old.
Key points covered in this episode:
✔️ There isn’t good policy without good politics and vice versa.
Understand that politics is a competitive, nonviolent process of allocating resources and power. Thus, voting for your elected officials is the most pivotal part because they will eventually exercise the collective voice on the floor. Sponsorship is excellent, but the vote is most important.
✔️ Thirteen to fourteen thousand bills are introduced in Congress every year, and about 1-3% make it to law.
One important deciding factor as to whether the bill goes anywhere in a committee is the person who introduced the bill. It’s worth noting that co-sponsorship is a crucial way to move an issue forward—and it’s the power of numbers.
✔️ State employees are strapped for time.
Committee staff rely on outside forces, experts who are subject matter experts, or advocacy groups working towards issues and change for a very long time
Public officials have a lot on their plates. Aim for brief, straightforward proposals that focus on the central issue you would like to convey if you want people to pay attention to what you have to say.
✔️ Avoid Too Much Fact-Stuffing
A few numbers may be effective, but too many can sometimes be confusing and overlooked. Figures may be placed in context by comparing them to a worldwide average, or they can be made more understandable by linking them to commonplace values that policymakers can understand immediately.
✔️ Spotlight on concrete outcomes and, ideally, address problems.
Politics, philosophy, the times, the press—there are so many things that influence what changes get made and why. For policymakers to make things work, they need to get other people on their side. Make their lives easy. What is the most compelling evidence you can provide to demonstrate that your proposal will have a genuine impact? If possible, share solid examples of where the idea has previously worked and how to improve it. If you can’t, describe the outcomes you’d like to see.
If you have questions, comments, or need help, please feel free to drop a one-minute audio or video clip and email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will get back to you by recording an answer to your question.
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (‘96) and Master of Science in Nursing (‘00) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) School of Nursing (SON). I truly enjoy working with the complex medical needs of older adults. I worked full-time for five years as FNP in geriatric primary care across many long-term care settings (skilled nursing homes, assisted living, home and office visits) then transitioned into academic nursing in 2005, joining the faculty at UNCW SON as a lecturer.
I obtained my PhD in Nursing and a post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing Education from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing (2011) ) and then joined the faculty at Duke University School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor. My family moved to northern Virginia in 2015 and led to me joining the faculty at George Washington University (GW) School of Nursing in 2018 as a (tenured) Associate Professor where I am also the Director of the GW Center for Aging, Health and Humanities.
Find out more about her work HERE.