Choose a legislator on the state or federal level who is also a nurse and discuss the importance of the legislator/nurse’s role as advocate for improving health care delivery.

Topic 4: Influencing the health care system through advocacy

Legislative nurses play an important role in advocating policies to improve the delivery of health care. Senator Maureen Walsh is a representative of the 16th Legislative District, Washington State. Registered nurse Senator Walsh brings her expertise in medical care and knowledge of the health care system to the legislative process. This allows her to support important health care policy.

Many bills have been sponsored by Senator Walsh that have had an impact on Washington State’s health care delivery. Co-sponsoring 2019’s Nurse Licensure Compact, which allowed nurses to work across states with a multistate licensure was one of her greatest contributions. This compact has helped increase access to care in rural areas, where healthcare workers are scarce. The bill allows for telehealth services. This has been increasingly crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, Senator Walsh also cosponsored Senate Bill 5433. This bill ensures advanced practice registered nurses can have full practice authority, and may prescribe medication without the supervision of a physician. The bill gives APRNs more complete care and allows them to access care in areas that are less accessible.

Federal nurse advocacy led to passage of Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs. These programs provide funding for education and workforce development as well as research. They are essential in solving the problem of nursing shortages and making sure that enough nurses are available to give care to everyone who needs it.

Although these legislative successes are impressive, it is important to keep advocating for policies in health care that can benefit patients as well as healthcare professionals. Nurses can, for example, advocate policies to address the social determinants that affect health such as food insecurity and housing. This can make a big difference in health outcomes. Nursing can also push for policies that improve access to mental health services and reduce the opioid epidemic.

As such, nurses serving in the legislative branch are vital in advocating for policy changes that will improve healthcare delivery. An excellent example is Senator Maureen Walsh who was a nurse advocacy champion and has supported legislation that has had an influence on Washington State’s healthcare system. At the federal level, nurse advocacy led to important legislative successes such as Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs. There is much more work needed to advocate for policies to address the social determinants and increase access to healthcare for everyone.

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