Writing Letters to the Editor, Editorials, and Op-Ed Essays (Part III)

Template for an Editorial or Op-Ed Essay

The op-ed essay is longer than a letter to the editor, so you can devote more space to the introductory paragraph and develop your points in greater detail. It may be less time sensitive, though it still focuses on issues in the news.

Establish the context for your op-ed essay with an attention grabbing first paragraph by using: a) a striking statistic, unusual fact, or vivid example or anecdote, b) a paradoxical statement, c) a quotation, d) a question, e) an analogy.

  • Example: According to John W. Rowe, MD, a physician and professor of health policy at Columbia University, the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called “Obamacare”) will create an enormous need for an additional 30,000 physicians by 2015 and 65,000 by 2025, a gap that could be filled by advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), “well-trained registered nurses with specialized qualifications who can make diagnoses, order tests and referrals, and write prescriptions. APRNs could provide a variety of services that primary care physicians now provide.”

Establish your credibility (credentials or authority)

  • Example: The next generation of APRNs that my colleagues at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing and I are educating today will help meet that need.

Make your argument in two or three points by making assertions supported by facts.

  • Example: Two obstacles stand in our way of meeting the needs that Dr. Rowe has highlighted. First, we need to recruit and prepare additional nursing faculty. We cannot simply increase our enrollments in APRN programs; our accrediting agencies stipulate the student-to-faculty ratio in order to ensure quality preparation. Second, we need to legislate in each state an expansion of scope of practice permitted to APRNs. As Dr. Rowe has observed, “despite an urgent need and clear evidence that APRNs can complement and extend primary care providers’ roles — without sacrificing quality of care — nurses are only permitted to practice independently to the full extent of their training and competence in 16 states and the District of Columbia. The remaining states impose regulatory barriers that limit their scope of practice.” It’s time for the remaining 34 states to expand APRNs’ scope of practice.

Conclude your essay with a call to action or a summary of your main idea, but keep in mind that people are persuaded by stories more often than by facts.

  • Example: You already know how hard it can be today to get an appointment with a physician and how little time the physician can spend with you. Think about how worse that will get in a few years when 30 million additional currently uninsured Americans become regular patients. However, a cadre of advance practice nurses stands ready to provide you and your family with a full range of health care. Provide the faculty needed to grow their ranks and give them the authority to practice what they have been prepared to do.

Nurses’ voices—your expertise and observations—are indispensable. Following this formula will make it easier for you to speak out on behalf of your profession.

Template for Letter to the Editor

–Thomas Lawrence Long

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