The American public and politicians alike have very strong opinions on health care topics, ranging from insurance policies to federal programs. When these issues reach a point where they may be voted on , health care lobbyists step into 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.
Since the beginning of 2017, lobbyists have been especially active. According to The Hill, few health care organizations anticipated a Republican victory in the 2016 presidential election. This propelled the lobbyists they employ to represent their interests even more vigorously.
Though lobbyists can come from any professional or academic background, nurses particularly are well placed to work in health care lobbying. In this profession, nurses are able to draw upon their experience and education in patient care and clinical practice to advocate for policies that benefit both the patients and providers.
Understanding the role of a health care lobbyist
In the most basic sense, 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.
Though people can work full-time as professional lobbyists, technically speaking, anyone can be a lobbyist by simply writing to a member of Congress or other government official on behalf of a cause. If you have ever called or written a letter to your local representative, you already have acted as a lobbyist.
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, which companies use if they feel that the word lobbyist is too charged for their cause. Though lobbying is considered to be part of the 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 employed by:
- Insurance groups
- Drug companies
- Specialty organizations
- Public health groups
- Others who have a stake in health care legislation
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 are trying to do more than educate government officials. Lobbyists also 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 because of the nurses’ 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. In January 2017, Gallup’s annual poll ranked nursing as the most trusted profession for the 15th year in a row. The honesty and ethical standards of nurses were reported as “high” or “very high” by 84 percent of respondents. Consequently, nurses’ opinions on the direction of health care in the U.S. can carry a lot of weight.
Fulfilling career requirements
The academic and professional requirements to work in nursing are very clear, which is not the case for health care lobbying. While there are no specific academic requirements to become a lobbyist, a higher 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 your thoughts on a certain topic if they know you hold a terminal degree in the field. Consequently, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree can be helpful if you hope to pursue a career in health care lobbying.
To succeed in this job, your experience in health care is invaluable. Working in nursing for a number of years before transitioning into lobbying gives you firsthand knowledge of how legislation directly impacts patients and health care organizations, a side of the equation that government officials may not necessarily have.
But knowledge of health care is not the only reason that it is important 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 can put you in touch with these professionals — will make you a valuable candidate when searching for jobs.
Beginning a career as a health care lobbyist
Once you have decided to pursue a career as a health care lobbyist, you will need to register with the appropriate governing bodies. Registration requirements vary by state, so you will need to check to ensure that you fulfill the correct requirements and complete the proper forms. Lobbyists typically are required to pay a small registration fee.
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 career and salary website PayScale, the median salary for lobbyists in the U.S. is approximately $70,000 a year, but salaries can exceed $100,000 annually.
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.