The American public and politicians have very strong opinions on health care topics, ranging from policies that govern insurance to the development of federal programs and beyond. When these issues reach a point where they may be voted on, health care lobbyists step in. They occupy the space between the public and government representatives — advocating for the interests of patients, providers, insurance companies, and others in the health care industry — to ensure officials make educated decisions.
Though lobbyists can come from any professional or academic background, nurses are particularly well suited to work in health care lobbying. In this profession, nurses are able to draw on their experience and education in patient care and clinical practice to advocate for policies that benefit both patients and providers.
What Is a Health Care Lobbyist?
Lobbyists are individuals who communicate and advocate certain views to members of the government in the hope of influencing policy at local, state or federal levels. Lobbyists can work for private individuals, large organizations, the general public or other special interest groups who have a vested interest in encouraging representatives to vote a certain way on a particular topic.
People who serve as professional advocates on behalf of a particular cause are not always called lobbyists. A number of other titles are used for this role, including government relations consultant. This title is often used by companies if they feel the word ‘lobbyist’ may be too politically charged for their cause.
Though lobbying is considered to be part of free speech protected by the First Amendment, professionals must abide by many rules and regulations, including a number of specifics regarding disclosure of activities and finances.
Health care lobbyists are most commonly employed by the following.
- Insurance groups
- Drug companies
- Specialty organizations
- Public health groups
- Others who have a stake in health care legislation
Health care lobbyists may lobby against certain taxes, such as those on insurance companies, or encourage funding for programs, such as those that treat narcotics abusers. Sometimes, lobbyists attempt to do more than educate government officials. They may attempt to delay votes, giving stakeholders time to bring their own concerns to the table and create a more complete discussion on the topic.
In health care, nurses who transition into lobbying are well-placed to represent and advocate for their patients’ interests. Nurses are able to apply their intimate knowledge of the field and understanding of the ways that legislation impacts day-to-day organizational operations. Nurses also make good lobbyists because they come from a well-respected profession. Their opinions on the direction of health care in the U.S. can carry a lot of weight.
Health Care Lobbyist Salary
Though many professionals enter health care lobbying to make a difference in the lives of patients and providers across the U.S., it is also a financially rewarding career. According to the compensation website PayScale, the median annual salary for lobbyists in the U.S. was approximately $75,000 as of December 2020, but salaries can exceed $100,000 annually.
The lowest 10% of lobbyists earn an average annual salary of $43,000 while the highest 10% can earn more than $142,000. Salaries can range based on the geographic location of where a health care lobbyist works as well as what industry employs them.
Though people can work full-time as professional lobbyists, technically speaking, anyone can be a lobbyist. This can be accomplished by simply writing to a member of Congress or other government official on behalf of a cause. If you have ever directly contacted your local representative, you have acted as a lobbyist, even though you weren’t doing it as a full-time job.
How to Become a Health Care Lobbyist
The academic and professional requirements to work in nursing are very clear, which is not the case for health care lobbying. Individuals may begin their careers in a variety of ways before becoming lobbyists. However, here is one route that can help prepare health care lobbyists for a successful future.
Step #1: Earn a Nursing Degree
Individuals can begin their careers by earning a nursing degree, such as a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). After passing the NCLEX-RN exam, they can become registered nurses and gain experience in the field. They can further their education by earning a graduate degree, such as a master of science in nursing (MSN) and becoming nurse administrators or practitioners.
Step #2: Gain Experience
To succeed in this job, experience in health care is invaluable. Working in nursing for a number of years before transitioning into lobbying can be very helpful. This path gives an individual firsthand knowledge of how legislation directly impacts patients and health care organizations, which is a side of the equation that government officials may not necessarily have.
Step #3: Pursue a Doctorate
A higher education degree can be beneficial, as it lends additional authority to the professional’s opinion. Members of Congress and other stakeholders may be more inclined to listen to a lobbyist’s thoughts on a certain topic if they hold a terminal degree in their field. Consequently, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree can be helpful for someone pursuing a career as a health care lobbyist.
Step #4: Network
Knowledge of health care is not the only reason to gain workplace experience before launching your lobbyist career. Networking and connections are critical components of successful lobbying. Knowing the right people in health care — or having coworkers who have connections with those professionals — will make a person a valuable candidate when searching for jobs.
Step #5: Register
Once a person has decided to pursue a career as a health care lobbyist, they will need to register with the appropriate governing bodies. Registration requirements vary by state, so individuals need to check to ensure they fulfill the correct requirements and complete the proper forms. Lobbyists typically are required to pay a small registration fee.
Pursue a Career as a Health Care Lobbyist
If you are ready to pursue a career as a health care lobbyist, consider enrolling in Bradley University’s online DNP program. In the leadership track, you will complete courses on health care policy and health promotion that will prepare you to succeed in lobbying in this critical area of the political arena.