About the Job

Nurses Say That Health Policy Awareness Improves Quality of Care

Nurses Say That Health Policy Awareness Improves Quality of Care

It makes sense: The more nurses and physicians are aware of health policies, the better their quality of service will be. However, this awareness goes far beyond the walls of the health center. Not only should nurses know the policies in their own private facility, they should also know the public policies that influence their care.

Public health policies are just as important when it comes to patient care. After all, they were put in place to safeguard the safety of the patient, as well as the security of medical personnel in the workplace. In this sense, studying health policies and witnessing the effects that they have on the general population have proven  to increase the quality of care in any medical environment.

A veteran nurse has recently discussed about how and why she became aware of both public and private health policies. She stated that her knowledge on both subjects has increased the quality of the care she gave to patients and strengthened her professional integrity.  

Susan Reinhard, RN, FAAN, the senior vice president and director of AARP Public Policy Institute, and chief strategist at the Center to Champion Nursing in America, tells the story about her humble beginnings as a visiting nurse in New Jersey. In the beginning, patients would invite her into their homes, where she had a firsthand look into their lives and health.

She would examine several factors, such as the family’s stress levels, the safety of the neighborhood, their access to food and social support, and their education levels, as well as whether they had access to health insurance or not. It was during these visits where she learned the true extent of how the environment can affect the patient’s health, and how insurance could influence the care that she was, or wasn’t, authorized to provide.

Nursing is not an easy profession — that much is clear. Much like other professions that involve interacting and providing services to people on a daily basis, someone must have the drive to dedicate their life to providing health services to others.  

While getting caught up in describing her daily tasks, Reinhard couldn’t help but wonder about health policies, as well as the environmental and social factors that played a pivotal role in preserving the health of the people she visited. It didn’t take long for her to understand that she could influence certain factors through health policies, and that she could help thousands of people— maybe even more!

Since then, Reinhard says that her career has been rich and varied. Through her efforts, she went on to assume leadership positions in several government programs, and even help lead a center for state health policy. Throughout her professional life, she has conducted research and imparted knowledge on the subjects that she discovered back when she was starting out. Currently, she leads the Public Policy Institute of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), while also serving as the chief strategist at the AARP’s Center to Champion Nursing in America (CCNA). She spearheads major nursing movements across the country, including Campaign for Action, which is a national initiative of the AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to empower and improve the lives of people and create healthier communities through effective nursing.