How a health law and policy degree can help advanced practice registered nurses

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Advanced practice registered nurses possess specialized skills that are vital to offering patients high-quality diagnostic and treatment services. These health care providers may have varied areas of expertise and take on many different responsibilities. Whatever their areas of specialty, however, APRNs can benefit from a deep engagement with policy, maintaining compliance and influencing procedures in their organizations. Current APRNs and registered nurses should consider pursuing an advanced education from healthcare law programs as a chance to build on their contributions.

Nurses are uniquely positioned to have a substantial influence on every aspect of how a hospital or practice serves its patients. With a thorough understanding of regulations and the broader effects of policy, professionals can have a positive impact on how health care delivery systems function and pursue new challenges in their careers.

Nurse using a laptop.

The duties of advanced practice registered nurses

There is a wide range of APRNs working in the U.S. and around the world today, offering patient-centered care and, in many cases, concentrating on underserved populations. As of 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 203,800 jobs in the field of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, earning a median salary of $107,460 per year. The agency projected exceptionally fast growth in the field, with 31 percent more positions expected to be created from 2016 to 2026. Separately, employment of registered nurses was projected to grow 15 percent in the same time period. Advanced practice nursing includes the following roles:

  • Nurse practitioners provide primary and secondary care, often in areas such as pediatric, geriatric or mental health care. They assess patients’ conditions, deciding on the best way to address their medical needs and encouraging lifestyle changes to promote well-being.
  • Nurse anesthetists are responsible for administering anesthesia in connection with procedures like surgery or physical therapy. They consult with patients to prevent drug interactions and track their vital signs to make adjustments as necessary.
  • Nurse midwives are focused on serving women. They are best known for delivering babies, but may also conduct gynecological exams, provide wellness education, assist in family planning and offer prenatal care.

Much of what APRNs do is very similar to the expectations for other registered nurses. They must collect relevant information about patients, administer medications and provide guidance on adhering to treatment or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Advanced practice registered nurses are distinguished by their additional duties, such as handling differential diagnoses, evaluating test results, taking part in research, referring patients to specialists and managing external and internal staff.

What is healthcare law and why is it important for APRNs?

To become an APRN, a licensed registered nurse must hold an accredited master’s degree in a specialized area and pass a certification exam. A Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy can be a great complement for these nurses, especially if they are interested in pursuing positions in administration or management. By gaining extensive knowledge of the legal principles and compliance issues that matter in today’s health care landscape, professionals can prepare themselves to take on leadership roles. The field of health law encompasses all the federal and state regulations or rules that impact how health care institutions function.

These factors can have huge effects on the care that physicians and nurses provide, the tools they use for storing and managing private information and their interactions with insurance payers. As laws change and increase in complexity, it becomes even more essential to have individuals who understand the key problems facing hospitals and practices and who are equipped to address them proactively. Nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses continue to expand their involvement in all aspects of health care, from filling gaps in the U.S. system by making primary care more widely available to driving advances in specialized areas. On a daily basis, APRNs strive to connect patients with preventive care, accurate diagnoses, safe treatment and effective follow-ups. Their broad perspectives and hands-on experience make them well-suited to getting involved in ongoing changes to policies and operations that prioritize patient advocacy, regulatory compliance and more efficient reimbursement.

A healthcare law program designed for the needs of today’s professionals

Hofstra Law’s online Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy program may be ideal for advanced nurse practitioners interested in moving their careers into areas of management or elevating their roles in patient advocacy. By taking 11 courses over 24 months, they can develop their knowledge of the laws governing health care and insights into how organizations can function more effectively. The online program is designed to fit the needs of busy professionals with all coursework completed online, no residency requirements and three start date options per year. Applicants to the Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy program are not required to have any legal experience. Rather, students learn about the relevant concepts by taking introductory courses in the American legal system and health law.

These classes explore the fundamental mechanisms and relationships that stand behind the interactions between health care and the law, ensuring that professionals with nursing backgrounds are ready to move on through the rest of the curriculum. The master’s program touches on a wide range of the most pressing questions confronting APRNs and hospital leadership. Classes deal with the legal considerations and ethical dilemmas that leaders must weigh in areas such as difficult treatment decisions, end-of-life care, genetics or medical research. Another course centers on business transactions in the health care setting, looking at best practices, applicable case law and the steps involved in forming a partnership, acquiring a practice or undergoing a merger. A class on statutory interpretation clarifies how laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act are interpreted and analyzed within a health care context. “Health Care and Compliance” ties together many of the ideas presented throughout the program, bringing students experience in applying regulations and writing internal policies.

With an education oriented toward regulatory and compliance issues, APRNs can have an edge in providing leadership through the complicated challenges that go along with high-quality health care. Earning a Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy degree from Hofstra Law online can be a leap forward for both registered nurses seeking to build on their current areas of expertise and advanced practice nurses who are ready to pivot to administrative work. To find out more about the curriculum and how you can apply, visit the program page.

Recommended Readings:
Hofstra Law’s online Master’s in Health Law and Policy programs: What you need to know
Classes you can take in Hofstra Law’s online Master of Laws in Health Law and Policy program

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners by BLS
Expanding the Role of Advanced Nurse Practitioners — Risks and Rewards by New England Journal of Medicine
Advanced Practice Nursing Fact Sheet by Nurse Journal
The impact of advanced practice nursing in healthcare: Recipe for developing countries by Annals of Neuroscience
Influence through policy: Nurses have a unique role by Reflections on Nursing Leadership