Navigating the healthcare scenario can be difficult for patients and loved ones, especially considering the vulnerability and stress of their immediate situation. In these cases, having someone who knows their way around the system looking out for your best interests can truly be a blessing.
This is where nurse advocates come in. While caring for patients is certainly at the core of the nursing profession, championing for their well-being beyond the physical level is also treated as a nursing responsibility. Quality patient care begins with physical comfort, but is not limited to it. Nurses are encouraged to ensure that patients do not face distress of any kind, be it physical, mental or emotional while in their care.
The Nursing Code of Ethics too considers patient care in holistic light as it outlines ethical responsibilities of nurses to ensure that a patient is not endangered in any regard. Nurses are encouraged to prioritize patient rights, interests and dignity in their nursing process. Provision 3 in the Code of Ethics outlines that “the nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.”
What is advocacy in nursing?
As nurses are usually the primary caregiver in clinical settings, patients usually turn to them for support. This fosters a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. Nurses, therefore, become instrumental in communicating patient needs to other professionals.
The concept of advocacy in nursing encompasses patient care with regard to a host of factors. From the basics of bedside care to enforcing policies on the administrative level, advocacy in nursing ensures that the medical community operates with the idea of the patient’s well-being at its core.
While all nurses perform duties at some point that can be considered nurse advocacy, nurses can also seek advocacy as a specialization to facilitate career growth.
Role of a Nurse Advocate
From primary caregiver to medical care coordinator, nurses wear several hats with advocacy as a responsibility. But the most prominent examples of nursing advocacy roles can include:
- Patient safety: The safety of the patient takes foremost precedence in any medical situation. Nurses are tasked with advocating for patient safety as they are the only ones with constant unhindered access to the patient and would be aware of their condition. With their expertise, nurses can recognize patient needs and ensure that they are met.
- Patient rights: Nurses must safeguard patient rights on all accounts. They ensure that patient confidentiality is maintained throughout and the rights of the patient is never violated.
- Prominence to patient issues: The biggest advocacy role that nurses play is to make sure that patient voices are heard. It can often happen that patients may face issues with their treatment plans or even issues relating to insurance. In these cases, the nurse advocates must ensure that their voices are heard and the issues are resolved efficiently.
- Education and advice: Patients and family members can often require nurses to explain diagnosis and treatment plans in simple terms. This ensures that there is effective communication between the patient and the professionals. This can also help improve patientcare outcomes as the patients can make informed decisions about their treatment as they understand their condition better.
- Bridging the gaps of healthcare: The healthcare industry can be intimidating to traverse especially for an outsider. In these scenarios, nurses can play an important part in guiding patients to the right direction. They can help in ensuring that patients are given access towards resources that can help them meet their recovery needs.
- Formulating and implementing policies: Nurses who have greater influence can advise healthcare policymakers to draft patient friendly policies. The voice of nurses in matters of patientcare cannot be ignored because of the unique position they occupy. Nurses are also responsible for implementing these policies in everyday practice to ensure consistent quality care.
Types of advocacy in nursing
Nurses are required to interact with both medical and non-medical professionals in their day-to-day routines. They are, therefore, in a position to be aware of most issues that can be hindering efficient patientcare. There can be different areas that nurse advocates can choose to specialize in.
- Patient advocacy: Nurses can advocate for patient rights to ensure that patient voices are heard. They can advise patients in medical, legal or even administrative matters to ensure that they receive the proper access to healthcare resources. They also serve as a channel of communication between patients and healthcare staff, acting in the best interests of the patients and upholding their decision-making rights.
- Nursing advocacy: As nurses form the biggest professional group in healthcare, they are in an ideal position to advocate for each other and the nursing profession as a whole. They can draw attention to issues faced by nurses in the workplace on a daily basis seeking better work environments.
- Policy advocacy: Nurses occupy a strategic position within the medical community that allows them to observe the impacts of healthcare policies firsthand. Therefore, influence and opinions of nurses in policy debates must be considered essential. Nurses have the power to advocate for policies that prioritize patients. Nurses can work with nurse organizations, hospital administration or even government officials to actively participate in formulating health policies.
Strategies to implement effective advocacy in nursing
Owing to staffing shortages, most nurses are often overworked and have little to no time to specifically focus on advocacy responsibilities. While patient advocacy is non-negotiable, being an advocate for fellow nurses and advocating for policy reform can often take the backseat, mostly due to hierarchical structures.
These challenges, however, can be overcome by mentoring nurses to hone their advocacy skills. Nurses can join nursing committees and organizations and take part in online debate forums. This can expose them to prominent healthcare issues, while also offering them an opportunity to communicate their stance on these issues.
Joining nursing communities as such can also help nurses discover a supportive environment of like-minded professionals and can also result in networking opportunities. With proper mentorship and chances, nurses can find a platform that will allow them to explore their potential as nurse leaders and influencers of positive growth within the medical community.