Nursing a direction on policy

23 September 2011

Nurses are at the heart of implementing health policy, but have very little voice in how they are developed.
Nurses are at the heart of implementing health policy, but have very little voice in how they are developed.

Why are so few nurses involved in developing health policies when they are at the heart of implementing them? Two University of Sydney experts will tackle this and other questions when they lead discussions about the contribution of nurses and midwives to leadership and health policy decision-making at a roundtable conference in Canada later this month.

Sydney Nursing School Dean, Professor Jill White and Professor Mary Chiarella will be showcasing their groundbreaking work aimed at recognising the valuable contribution nurses and midwives can make to health policy design and practice as part of the next nursing and midwifery International Policy and Research Roundtable to be held from 26 to 28 September.

Professor Jill White said: "We were asked by the Chair of the Canadian Nurses Association to hold the second roundtable discussion in Ottawa alongside a commission being held into the future directions and needs of healthcare in Canada. We've also been invited to participate in the commission's enquiries.

"We are delighted to have the opportunity to speak to the Canadian Commission on the lessons we have learned from our Health and Hospitals Reforms Commission which was aimed at assisting in developing a sustainable, high quality, responsive health system for all Australians."

But the Dean of Nursing says the roundtable will focus on utilising the knowledge and expertise of nurses and midwives in a more effective manner.

"It is largely the responsibility of nurses to implement new health practises and healthcare policies but the profession has little or no say in any changes to or new policy directions," says Professor White.

"We are trying to do something substantial about nurses and midwives having a voice at the policy table. Ultimately we are the ones that bring life to the policies so to have a voice at the development phase of policy makes a lot of sense.

The roundtable is a consortium involving leaders of national nursing associations, national policy decision-makers, and members of the scientific community from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States and is led by Professors White and Chiarella.

Initially conceptualised and designed by the Professors White and Chiarella, and with funding from the University of Sydney, the first international policy and research roundtable was held two year ago at the University of Sydney. Since then the consortium has continued its work aimed at developing a health policy research and education network for nurses around the world who are interested in influencing health policy.

Professor Jill White says while participants at the Roundtable are exclusively nursing and midwifery professionals, the information and recommendations developed at the discussions will be brought back to a broader audience including the Chief Medical Officers of Australia and Britain.

The International Health Research Policy Roundtable is being held in Ottawa, Canada from 26 to 28 September.

Professors White and Chiarella will also be presenting a paper at the Yale Nursing Alumni.

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