Role of Nurses As Advocates: Speaking Up For Patients

Nurses fulfill a vital role in the care of people. By working closely with patients, they can be advocates and a voice for those in their care.

Advocacy is essential to improving health care. The American Nurses Association added nurse advocacy as a standard in the latest edition of “Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice”, a leading resource for professional nursing practice. The standard acknowledges that nurses can serve an important role in voicing challenges in health care and working toward the best care and patient outcomes.

Nurses provide a wide range of health care services to patients. They see firsthand the effectiveness of treatments and can mediate between physicians and patients. Their regular contact with multiple patients puts them in unique positions in which they can also advocate for major health care policies.

Characteristics of Nursing Advocacy

According to research on patient advocacy in nursing, nurses provide support for patients through compassion and empathy. They create mutual trust by sharing information, managing emotional situations, maintaining communications and encouraging proximity.

To be effective, nurse advocates must establish trust with patients and their families. Nurses must also be respected by other health care providers, who may turn to them to provide an understanding of actual patient needs, concerns and beliefs. When working with other health professionals, nurses can communicate problems with diagnoses, accommodations, medicine and patient self-care.

In addition to mediating between physicians and patients, nurses often educate patients’ families on treatment recommendations. They might have to speak up if family members are not making decisions in the best interest of the patient.

Influence on Community and Policy

Nurses can apply their advocacy skills to speak to those in positions of power regarding educational, health care and economic issues. Nurse advocates can be found sharing their expertise with the community leaders, elected officials, and educational and health care organizations that are seeking to improve health care.

Some of the issues nurses can advocate for include payment and policy solutions, changes to medical processes, legal options and policies that support certain groups of people (e.g., elderly patients, underserved communities, expectant parents, persons with disabilities).

When working with legal entities and lawmakers, nurses must know the laws and regulations that affect health care. Many nursing groups and associations publish advocacy tools to strengthen nurses’ knowledge of public policy. These are resources that provide information on the policy-making process, as well as guides for identifying policy goals and creating advocacy strategies.

Expand Your Role as an Advocate for Patients

Nurses can contribute to improvements in health care. They need communication, decision-making and problem-solving skills to be successful advocates for patients. 

Carlow University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program equips students with the skills needed for nursing in a variety of health care settings. Students in this nursing degree program prepare for roles in which they can become effective advocates for patients.

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