Political Astuteness of Baccalaureate Nursing Students Following an Active Learning Experience in Health Policy


Correspondence to:

Mary E. Byrd, School of Nursing, Rhode Island College, 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Providence, RI 62908. E-mail: mbyrd@ric.edu



To describe changes in political astuteness after baccalaureate nursing student participation in a series of public policy learning activities.

Design and Sample

This one-group pretest/posttest design included 300 undergraduate nursing students enrolled in the public/community health nursing course. Data collection occurred each semester beginning spring 2008 and ending summer 2011.


The Political Astuteness Inventory (PAI) was used to compare levels of political astuteness and to identify conceptual factors contributing to political involvement prior to and at the completion of the public policy learning activities.


The public policy learning activities were a central clinical component of the senior level public/community health nursing course. These activities included information sessions at the State Department of Health and State House, a legislative assignment, and a public policy group project.


After participating in the public policy learning activities, students' political astuteness mean scores significantly increased (p = .000). Participation in professional organizations and knowledge of the legislative and policy processes significantly predicted posttest political involvement (p = .000).


The PAI was a useful outcome measure for the public policy activities. Active learning experiences in public policy can increase the knowledge and skills that future nurses need to influence public policy.