Health Policy Nurse Career Overview

Nicole Galan, RN, MSN
Updated February 28, 2023
    Want to impact policy on nursing and healthcare? Learn more about health policy nurse jobs, including how to become a health policy nurse and salary expectations.
    mini logo

    Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

    Featured ImageCredit: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

    how long to become

    average earning potential

    average earning potential$75,330SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    Health Policy Nurse Career in Brief

    BSN or MSN preferred
    certification optional

    Health policy nurses help shape healthcare policy by advising policymakers and advocacy organizations on public health and nursing issues. They must understand how healthcare delivery systems and healthcare policy interact.

    Health policy nurse job responsibilities include:

    Primary Responsibilities

    • Reviewing proposed local, state, or federal public health and healthcare policy changes.
    • Analyzing changes to determine the likely impact on healthcare or public health.
    • Advocating for specific approaches or policies.
    • Organizing collaborations among stakeholders.
    • Communicating with stakeholders and policymakers.

    Key Skills

    • Collaborative and communicative
    • Policy analysis and systems thinking
    • Diplomatic skills
    • Foresight

    Credit: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

    Loading...Learn More
    Visit Site
    Loading...Learn More
    Visit Site
    Loading...Learn More
    Visit Site

    Where Do Health Policy Nurses Work?

    Health policy nurse jobs usually involve more office and desk work than direct patient care nurse jobs. See below for common workplace settings.

    • minusGovernment Agencies

      Health policy nurses analyze potential changes in healthcare and public health policy, identify likely impacts, and write reports and white papers.

    • minusPublic Health Non-governmental Organizations

      Health policy nurses conduct advocacy efforts, examine updates and modifications in policy, educate the public, and partner with collaborators to promote specific policies or approaches.

    • minusHealthcare Providers or Trade Associations

      Health policy nurses help research and explore possible policy changes and its impacts on stakeholders, communicate with stakeholders, and work with lobbyists and public relations/communications teams.

    Why Become a Health Policy Nurse?

    Health policy nurses can help shape healthcare and public health at a systems level, an important work that can be immensely satisfying. However, the role rarely involves direct patient care, which is why many nurses may not enter the profession. Health policy nurses must also often deal with bureaucracy and political partisanship.

    Advantages to Becoming a Health Policy Nurse

    • check-circleCan improve healthcare and public health policy on a large scale
    • check-circleInvolves a less physically demanding role compared to general nursing
    • check-circleCollaborates with a variety of partners

    Disadvantages to Becoming a Health Policy Nurse

    • x-circleCan be frustrating as policy changes may be slow and laborious
    • x-circleManages a lot of red tape and bureaucracy
    • x-circleMust be willing to deal with politics and partisanship issues

    How to Become a Health Policy Nurse

    Earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

    During your BSN program, take electives in healthcare policy, public health, and healthcare systems. Consider participating in student leadership opportunities.

    Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive registered nurse (RN) licensure.

    The National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) takes up to six hours and covers such topics as pharmacology, health promotion, and basic care and comfort.

    Gain clinical nursing experience.

    While some health policy master of science in nursing (MSN) and doctoral programs do not require clinical experience, many do. Some employers may also prefer candidates with hands-on nursing experience.

    Earn an MSN or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) in health policy.

    Most health policy nurse leadership jobs require at least an MSN, and upper management jobs often prefer or require a DNP.

    Earn certification in health policy.

    While there is no specific credential for health policy nursing, relevant jobs often require or prefer certification in public health, public health administration, or health policy.

    Certification Options for Health Policy Nurses

    How Much Do Health Policy Nurses Make?

    Health policy nurse salaries vary widely based on education, job responsibilities, and workplace. While the average annual salary for a health policy analyst is $64,130, those with an MSN in health policy can expect to earn an average yearly salary of $111,500. In contrast, RNs earn a median annual salary of $75,330.

    Nursing jobs are projected to grow by 7% between 2019-2029, much faster than the national average for all occupations combined. U.S. health policy involves many stakeholders, including governments, healthcare providers, public health organizations, philanthropies, and healthcare trade associations, all requiring health policy nurses to help accommodate growth and change.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long does it take to become a health policy nurse?

    It takes at least six years of education to earn an MSN degree, plus the required nursing experience for admission into an MSN program. While it takes four years to earn a BSN, most health policy nurse jobs require or strongly prefer candidates with an MSN or a DNP.

    Why is healthcare policy important in nursing?

    Healthcare policy affects every aspect of public health. Policy shapes nursing licensing requirements, staffing and regulatory requirements for hospitals and other healthcare providers, public funding for healthcare, healthcare accessibility, responses to pandemics and disasters, and vaccination requirements.

    How can nurses affect healthcare policy?

    Nurses hold direct experience with healthcare delivery, and nursing is the most trusted profession in the U.S., giving nurses exceptional credibility. Health policy nurses with clinical experience have seen and directly responded to healthcare policy’s impact, gaining a unique understanding of how policy affects individuals.

    What is a health policy residency?

    Many healthcare policy MSN programs include a residency. Residencies provide hands-on experience at policy organizations or organizations with major policy functions, such as governments, think tanks or foundations, trade associations, and public health providers. These opportunities give health policy nursing students direct experience as they develop a professional network.

    Resources for Health Policy Nurses

    • American Public Health Association

      APHA publishes books, white papers, a journal and newsletters; conducts policy review and advocacy; offers an annual conference and other professional development activities; and provides networking opportunities. Membership is open to any individual with an interest in public health, public health organizations, and solutions providers.
    • Association of Public Health Nurses

      This association advances the public health nursing profession by promoting high practice standards and continuing education. APHN hosts an annual conference and offers group and individual memberships for public health nurses, students, public health staff, and stakeholders.
    • Organization of Nurse Leaders

      ONL is a professional association for current and aspiring nurse leaders in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Members can enjoy professional development resources, including classes on leadership, attend quarterly and annual meetings along with networking events, and explore new job postings on an exclusive job board.
    • American Organization for Nurse Leadership

      AONL highlights certification programs and other resources for nurses in leadership or executive positions and provides professional development and continuing education opportunities. The organization also conducts advocacy efforts and publishes newsletters and a journal.

    Related Pages

    Reviewed by:

    Portrait of Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

    Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

    Nicole Galan is a registered nurse who earned a master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University and currently works as a full-time freelance writer. Throughout her nursing career, Galan worked in a general medical/surgical care unit and then in infertility care. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students.

    Galan is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.

    Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

    Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.