Advocacy and Policy Reform in Nursing

Table of Contents


To be successful in the nursing field, it is important to realize the impact that every single health practitioner might have on patients’ lives, their community, and the health system on the whole. The nursing profession is extraordinarily complex and requires not only objective knowledge but also a fostering of outstanding personal traits. Nurses have the potential to play a major role in promoting self-care, healthy lifestyle, and education.

When responding to the issues in their communities, health practitioners may elaborate on new, more effective solutions and advocate for them at the national level. The history of medicine has seen quite a few exceptional women who brought about true changes. This essay will provide key facts from their biographies, compare and contrast their contributions, and discuss prospects.

Florence Nightingale

In the history of medicine, Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) went down as the founder of contemporary nursing. She became a prominent figure during the Crimean war where she treated and cared for wounded soldiers. During her service, she pondered as to what caused the high mortality rates in the military. Nightingale expanded the scope of her practice beyond addressing the consequences and using statistical methods, established underlying reasons of deaths and diseases. She concluded that sanitary conditions were to be improved and lobbied the British Army to address poor ventilation, contaminated water, and overcrowding (Reef, 2016). Among her other achievements is the foundation of the first secular nursing school in the world, St. Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926) did not only defy social expectations by becoming the first Black graduated nurse in the United States but also thrived and prospered in the society plagued by white supremacy. In her practice, Mahoney was often confronted with racial discrimination. Moreover, she observed how other African American graduates struggled to find employment. Mahoney was one of the first Black individuals to join Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada (NCAA USC), which would later become the American Nurses Association (AMA) (Black, 2013).

The organization was predominantly white and discriminated against people of color which pushed Mahoney to found a more diverse National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. NACGN provided support for nurses of color and congratulated them on their accomplishments.

Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) was at the forefront of the birth control movement in the United States. Back then, abortion was illegal, and contraception was inaccessible, ineffective, or stigmatized. Sanger had the experience of living abroad, and as she observed the medical practice in Dutch clinics, she grew determined to bring about a meaningful change in the US. After World War I, she founded the American Birth Control League (ABCL) that aimed at reaching out to the middle class and promoting family planning. According to Sanger, the main principles of conscious family planning were willful conception and provision of sufficient conditions for a child’s health and well-being (Guttmacher, 2014). After World War II, Sanger founded the International Committee on Planned Parenthood which later became Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest women’s health organization.

Contrast and Comparison

All three nurse advocates made an invaluable contribution to the nursing field, which is the first similarity one may point out. Further, they were ahead of their time and innovative in seeking and applying solutions to the most pressing issues of the eras they were living in. What helped each of them realize the need for a change was their experiences, close ties with their communities, and systematic observations. One may contend that Mahoney and Sanger were resilient to social pressure.

An outspoken, educated Black woman challenged the common social narrative in which people of color were inferior to Whites. Sanger reconsidered the woman’s role and emphasized women’s autonomy and right to make decisions about their bodies. It is easy to see that while addressing different issues, these women were equally brave and socially conscious.

Future Prospects and Necessary Changes

Even though tangible progress was made, the need for nurse advocacy and policy reforms remains. Among the current issues is nurse shortage in the workforce, underwhelming educational level, the retirement of registered nurses, and legal illiteracy. One may outline possible solutions to address the said issues and also foster the environment where nurse advocacy is encouraged. First, it is imperative to motivate nurses to continue education and study the legal basis of their profession. Second, nurses should not be afraid to challenge the status quo since advocacy is often a risky endeavor (Mason, Gardner, Outlaw & O’Grady, 2015). Thus, policymakers and employers should ensure a safe and friendly atmosphere in health facilities so that requests and suggestions could be taken into account.


The field of medicine can be and should be a breeding ground for meaningful social changes. Since nurses are working closely with their communities, they can understand their needs and come up with workable solutions. The world has seen many gifted nurses who put their skills to good use and promoted new policies. In the 19th and 20th centuries, such nurse advocates as Nightingale, Mahoney, and Sanger advocated for sanitary reforms, black justice, and women’s rights respectively. As of now, nurse advocacy may be fostered through lifelong learning, increased legal literacy, and the provision of a responsive work environment.


Black, B. P. (2013). Professional nursing: Concepts and challenges. St. Louis, MI: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Guttmacher, A. F. (2014). Margaret Sanger: An autobiography. New York, NY: Pergamon Press.

Mason, D. J., Gardner, D. B., Outlaw, F. H., & O’Grady, E. T. (2015). Policy & politics in nursing and health care. St. Louis, MI: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Reef, C. (2016). Florence Nightingale: The courageous life of the legendary nurse. Boston, NY: Clarion Books.

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