Influencing health policy: nurses can play an effective part in influencing health policy, if they develop the necessary skills and the confidence to use them.

Hearth policy is for ever changing as new systems are developed,

new facilities are commissioned and new technology is introduced.

Nurses have a responsibility to become politically aware and be

involved in all levels of policy development, whether at an

organisational level, developing operational policies for services, or

in response to nationwide policy changes that wilt affect the health and

well-being of New Zealanders.

Nurses need to be actively involved and play a strong and

constructive role in the development and changes in health and

disability policy.

Health policy affects the daily working Lives of nurses and of the

people they care for and nurses need to be at the decision-making table

to make sure policy enhances good health care. (1)

To influence policy, nurses need to move from being reactive to

policy changes to having a planned, strategic approach. Being strategic

requires a good understanding of the issues, knowing who to influence,

how to influence and the appropriate timing to initiate Lobbying the

right people.

There are many barriers to nurses becoming politically active.

Nurses are busy people; they don't just have nursing career

responsibilities but aLso juggle the responsibilities of family, homes,

children and/or elderly parents. Time for political activities is

Limited and for some nurses this may not be an activity they can give a

great deal of time to. However, inactivity may result in the

nurse's practice being changed in a way that is not in the best

interest of the nurse or the health consumer.

Being politically aware does not require each individual nurse to

always take the initiative; it requires a network that advises nurses

when issues need a response and Leadership to drive a strategic, timely

response. (2) NZNO provides this information through its website, Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand and industrial and professional advisers. The

challenge is to know how to make an appropriate response to political

change at the right time.

Nurses often need to form strategic alliances with other

organisations with similar interests and issues. These alliances provide

a coordinated and united approach that can have more impact than each

organisation acting individually and give nurses a stronger voice. (2)

Nurses need to be aware of how the political process works in order

to influence new legislation and changes in Legislation. Developing new

Legislation is a Lengthy process and there are strategic points where it

can be challenged. One of the most important points for challenging and

changing the direction of Legislation is when a Bill goes out for

consultation. (3) Nurses need to take advantage of the consultation

process that precedes a Bill being passed into law. This provides an

opportunity to influence the direction of health and social policy.

Nurses should not assume legislators or the health sector will

automatically consult them or consider the impacts of Legislative

changes on nursing practice and consumers.

Nurses are frequently aware of the issues affecting health

consumers. They are aLso in a good position to have an influence in

situations where changes to legislation will affect consumers'

access to health care.

To influence policy nurses need to keep abreast of possible policy

changes, whether at a Local or national level. This involves being in

positions where they are consulted on changes in policy or being

proactive and watching for pending issues. This can be through keeping

up to date on political issues, reading news items, watching health and

select committee websites for consultation papers, and becoming

respected in political circles as people who can provide an informed

comment on issues.

The media provides a powerful way to communicate on health policy

issues and nurses need to become confident at using this form of

communication. For too long, nurses have relied on others to speak for

them in media forums. We need more nurses who can speak on nursing and

health issues and who become respected spokespersons.

The challenge is to change our approach to policy issues, take each

issue as an opportunity to be heard, and take action. You can make a

difference and influence health policy. (4)

Every time you catch yourself thinking "someone should do

something about that", why not change your approach to "I will

do something about it"?

Health policy workshops

NZNO has developed Learning modules on influencing health policy to

be run as one-day workshops in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch

next month:

* October 7--Auckland

* October 14--Christchurch

* October 21--Wellington

These workshops aim to increase nurses' understanding of why

policies are made, how they are formed and changed at both an

organisational and government level, and encourage nurses to engage in

influencing policy makers. The workshops took at choosing the right time

to influence policy, planning the strategy, getting the key messages

across, selecting the right tool for getting maximum impact and getting

involved. (3)

The workshops will be interactive, using questions and scenarios,

and participants will have an opportunity to develop different ways of

Looking at and influencing policy.

If you are interested in attending one of these workshops, please

email Betty Ng on bettyn@ For further details, see last

month's Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, p10.

By competency adviser Pauline Cook


(1) Hughes, F (2001) Influencing health policy. Nursing New Zealand

Centenary Souvenir 1901- 2001. Wellington: Nursing Council of New


(2) NZNO (2007) NZNO college and section committee handbook.

Wellington: NZNO.

(3) Barnett, T. (2008) Political lobbying

Retrieved 13/08/08.

(4) Calder, S. Hughes, F. (2007) Have your say: Influencing Public

Policy in Hew Zealand. Dunmore Publishing Limited, Wellington.

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