History of Health Policy at AACN

AACN's involvement in the public policy arena is grounded in committee work that began in the 1970s. The Public Affairs Committee began identifying trends and issues related to critical care nursing and healthcare, and responded to legislative priorities.

In the 1980s, a Health Policy and Legislative Committee continued to develop public policy resources and began to address health policy issues. AACN entered into a relationship with the American Nurses Association by writing letters of support and providing testimony for legislative and regulatory issues being monitored by ANA. This activity created a foundation on which today's current AACN public policy agenda is built.

1990 - AACN introduced a legislative fellowship to assist members in gaining hands-on experience in developing health policy that included the legislative and regulatory process. This activity aided the development of networks and partnerships with coalitions, legislative and regulatory officials, consumer groups and other nursing and healthcare leaders.

As healthcare reform initiatives gained momentum throughout the United States, AACN recognized the impact that healthcare policy has on bedside practice. Demonstrating a leadership role by committing resources to achieve its vision of a healthcare system driven by the needs of patients and their families, AACN conducted a public policy member survey. The results of the survey identified members' needs and provided information for resource development.

1995 - Under the direction of Chris Breu, RN, MN, CNAA, FAAN, AACN assessed current public policy activities and member needs as they related to influencing public policy by obtaining feedback from members on barriers to being involved and knowledge and skills needed.

January 1996 - Responding to its members' needs, AACN's Board of Directors approved the global outcomes, definitions and assumptions for a public policy agenda.

April 1996 - The Public Policy Work Group was established to assist in refining the agenda. The work group recommended a purpose, framework and priority strategies to facilitate a coordinated approach between national and grassroots efforts in advancing AACN's causes.

August 1996 - The Board of Directors approved the framework to be used as one guide in developing, implementing and evaluating the Association's Public Policy Agenda. Three global public policy priority issues were approved within the framework. These priorities address vulnerable populations, public and community safety and humane and ethical care.

October 1996 - Specific priority issues were identified by the Public Policy Work Group that fit under the umbrella of the priority issues. The Work Group developed resource kits for these issues: Organ Donation, Tobacco-Free Kids, Domestic Violence and Bicycle Helmet Safety.

April 1997 - The Public Policy Advisory Team (PPAT) was established as a regional resource to assist chapters and all members in implementing the public policy agenda at the grassroots level.

May 1997 - Members of the work group at the Association's National Teaching Institute presented the four resource kits in a mastery session.

1998 - AACN established a relationship with Capitol Associates, a lobbying firm, where a proactive model was set up to respond to issues. AACN targeted advance directives, advanced practice and grassroots program development as priorities. While working with coalitions and other organizations AACN provided testimony in support of nursing education legislation, and AACN's Public Policy Work Group developed a strategic plan for the Association's public policy agenda.

1999 - Present - As AACN further refined the organization's agenda for public policy, the Advisory Team was transitioned to the Public Policy Work Group with a focus on identifying issues that affect the practice of critical care nursing and enhancing AACN's member resources for public policy. "The Value of Nursing" was identified as a major initiative for the organization with a goal of creating increased public awareness of nurse's value to health care. Priorities for AACN's current public policy agenda include advocating for solutions to the nursing shortage and addressing workplace issues that pose barriers to providing safe, quality care in a satisfying work environment.

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