The Future of Healthcare: Political Participation of Nursing and Public Health Students

The Future of Healthcare: Political Participation of Nursing and Public Health Students

Christine Vandenhouten (University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, WI, USA), Susan Gallagher-Lepak (University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, WI, USA), Derryl E. Block (Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA), Sylvia May Kubsch (University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, WI, USA), Jan Strom (Northern Illinios University, DeKalb, IL, USA) and Crystalmichelle L. Malakar (Bellin Psychiatric Center, Bellin Health System, De Pere, WI, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/ijcesc.2015100103
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The U.S. healthcare environment is undergoing rapid change. New policies have reshaped healthcare through reimbursement models focused on access and quality. Advocating for policies that improve population health is important for health professionals and students. For this reason, educators need to know how to prepare students to be active in the political process. Using the Civic Volunteerism Model, factors influencing nursing and public health students' political participation were examined. Both groups had relatively low levels of political participation and differences in types of political activities. The best predictor of political participation was found to be psychological engagement (e.g., political efficacy, partisanship, political interest). Students were more politically active if they attended school part-time, employed more than part-time, and were non-traditional students. Suggested educational strategies and use of social media were discussed. Further exploration of social media as a source of political information and recruitment is recommended.
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Literature Review

Nursing, as one of the largest health professions with three million registered nurses across the United States, has the potential to drive policies that influence health. This large and trusted professional group accounts for one in every 44 voters (Spenceley et al., 2013; Phillips, 2012). The public expects nurses to provide compassionate and ethical care and advocate for clients and issues that are relevant. A recent Gallup poll found nurses rated highest in honesty and ethical standards compared to numerous other professional groups (Gallup, 2014). Despite the profession’s potential to influence policy, advocacy by nurses has sometimes been characterized as invisible (Spenceley et al., 2013).

Exploration of the level and types of political participation among nurses and nursing students has been addressed in recent literature. Using Verba and colleagues’ (1995) Civic Volunteerism Model (CVM), the authors identified political engagement in primarily “low cost” activities (e.g., voting, conversations about politics, contacting elected officials) among Midwestern RN to BSN students and RNs (Vandenhouten, Malakar, Kubsch, Block, & Gallagher-Lepak, 2011). Psychological engagement was found to be most predictive of political participation which was consistent with previous research by Ritter (2008) and Cramer (2002). Specific dimensions of psychological engagement most strongly associated with political participation were political interest, political efficacy and family influences. Resources (i.e., time/money, civic skills) significantly contributed to political participation as well (Vandenhouten et al., 2011). Social networking as a form of political participation was not addressed in this study (Vandenhouten et al., 2011).

Numerous barriers have been cited as reasons for low political participation by nurses and nursing students. Rains & Barton-Kriese (2001) identified in a qualitative study that nursing students had a “disconnect among personal, political, and professional expectations” and a “hesitancy in talking about themselves as political beings” (p. 222). Spenceley et al. (2006) cited the following barriers for political participation by nurses 1) lack of preparation from nursing education, 2) heavy workloads and lack of time, 3) professional silos and fragmentation, 4) risk averse personal qualities, and 5) tendency to view policy as removed from their scope of interest.

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