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Dean's Blog | January 2, 2020

Nurses are often a missing voice in health care policy, not anymore

Judith Karshmer
Dr. Ross, 3rd from right, pictured with Phoenix Mayor, Kate Gallego, center.

Policy is to government as nursing is to health care. Local government and nursing impact people at human levels; just imagine the impact if they linked arms for a greater good.

It’s actually happening here in Arizona.

The Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the Phoenix Mayor’s Office are working together to address issues Mayor Kate Gallego has identified as important city needs. The mayor, who was elected in March 2019, says every issue affecting Phoenix touches health in some way, from behavioral health and public safety to aging, and the city’s health care workforce.

In order to tackle some of these issues, Mayor Gallego turned to Arizona State University, tapping experts for help to craft effective policies and initiatives.

And so that’s how Heather Ross, PhD, DNP, FAANP, and Edson College clinical assistant professor, came to be embedded in the mayor’s office as a health care expert and policy fellow. She is on loan to the city for a term of two years for the sole purpose of developing evidence-based solutions for broad community benefit. This, in addition to regular duties here in the college.

Dr. Ross, a practicing nurse, expert in implementation science and a health policy advocate at the state and federal levels, will be focusing on a few main priority areas:

  1. Behavioral health.
  2. Dementia care.
  3. Nursing workforce development.

Ideally, interventions to address these areas of concern will develop from collaborations both on campus and in the community. An added benefit of this appointment is that Dr. Ross will be able to bridge the gap between university and city resources.

It may seem odd after reading this, but rarely do we think of local government when we discuss health policy. Those discussions seem to occur almost entirely at state and federal levels. But having nurses, and the vast expertise they bring, engage with municipal government structures is critical. We know that when nurses are leading or simply participating in health policy discussions, the outcome is more favorable for everyone involved but most importantly for the community members they serve on a daily basis.

I am really excited about this venture and look forward to keeping you posted on her progress and the impact she has on our city.