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‘Front-line community nurses can help shape policy’

Academic says nurses and health visitors are the ones who interact with the public and interpret policy
Community nursing

Community nurses can help effect change in research and policy, a nursing academic has said.

University of Kent professor of community nursing and public health Sally Kendall said front-line staff had power through their practice.

Speaking at the RCN International Research Conference in Oxford on Friday, Professor Kendall said nurses act as street-level bureaucrats because they actually implement health policies.

She said: Nurses and health visitors working in the community have numerous opportunities to interact with the public and shape and interpret how policy can be implemented.

Influencing policy

In a keynote speech on how nursing research can influence primary and community care, Professor Kendall said policy was ideologically driven.

She spoke about obstacles and challenges in research and said often it was a body of work,

Community nurses can help effect change in research and policy, a nursing academic has said.


Nurses act as ‘street-level bureaucrats’ because they actually implement health policies. Picture: iStock

University of Kent professor of community nursing and public health Sally Kendall said front-line staff had power through their practice.

Speaking at the RCN International Research Conference in Oxford on Friday, Professor Kendall said nurses act as ‘street-level bureaucrats’ because they actually implement health policies.

She said: ‘Nurses and health visitors working in the community have numerous opportunities to interact with the public and shape and interpret how policy can be implemented.’

Influencing policy

In a keynote speech on how nursing research can influence primary and community care, Professor Kendall said policy was ideologically driven.

She spoke about obstacles and challenges in research and said often it was a body of work, rather than a single study, that would ultimately influence policy.

‘When we start research, we all like to think we have had a “light bulb moment” and are going to change policy. But the process of the light bulb idea does not always turn out how we hope – there are thousands of ideas in research and they don’t all survive.’

Professor Kendall explained how a group of health visitors had approached her university to do some research to help measure the outcomes of their work. She said this local-level work that started in 2004 had since spawned a series of related studies and a measuring tool, which had been used internationally.

It was nurses carrying out the work and feeding into studies that had created this impact, she said, adding: ‘We could not have got to that stage just by being researchers.’

She ended with a quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.’


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