Implementation of an Evidence-Based Experiential Learning Program to Improve Nursing Engagement in Health Policy and Advocacy

Apple, Ashley, Nursing Practice - School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Yost, Terri, NR-Nursing: Faculty, University of Virginia

Not only are nurses qualified to participate in health policy and advocate for social justice, they are called to do so by the ethical tenets of the nursing profession. Despite their duty to act, nursing engagement in health policy and advocacy remains low, and many nurses report feeling inadequately prepared for policy involvement by their educational programs. Experiential learning is widely utilized in nursing education to bridge the gap between theory and practice; however, it has not been fully integrated into the nursing health policy curriculum. This project utilized an evidence-based practice framework to pilot an experiential learning program in health policy and advocacy for nursing students at the University of Virginia, which was centered on the concept of social justice, and aimed to promote emancipatory nursing praxis among participants. The two-day program coincided with the 2021 legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly, and students were immersed in the legislative process by observing live legislative sessions and discussing policy issues with elected officials. Students interacted with health policy experts, lobbyists, attorneys, nurse executives, and leadership from professional nursing organizations. The program utilized local public health data to highlight health disparities, and students engaged in critical analysis of legislative initiatives as a means to advocate for vulnerable populations. Levels of political astuteness increased for all participants after program attendance, and student reflections indicated positive changes in perceptions related to social justice and the nurse’s role in health policy and advocacy. Results demonstrate the effective integration of evidence into program design and implementation, and support the benefit and feasibility of program adoption within the nursing health-policy curriculum.

DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
Social Justice , Experiential Learning, Political Astuteness, Emancipatory Nursing Praxis , Enact
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