Advocacy is often described as the nurse-patient relationship and it is an important concept in nursing practice and is at the core of the profession. Nurses spend more time with patients than any other group in healthcare. The best nurses care, talk to, comfort, support, teach, and advise patients for long periods of time, which develops a level of trust with them and their families. In doing so, this makes them advocates.

As the strong voice for patients and their families, nurses are fueled and have the drive to serve as advocates for not only the patients they care for, but their communities, their profession, and themselves. Below are examples of ways nurses can serve as advocates.

  1. Patients
    Patients entrust their lives to nurses and all nurses are patient advocates regardless of their field of nursing. They act as a liaison between patients and other members of the healthcare team to guide them to make educated decisions about their healthcare. Nurses also directly advocate for their patients by speaking on their behalf, defends patients when their right to healthcare is neglected and does their best to improve overall patient care.
  2. Communities
    Nurses see firsthand the many issues healthcare patients are affected by on a daily basis. Working directly with patients and forming long-term relationships can drive influence on nurses to make a change for public healthcare policies. This is done by empowering their voice to share stories regarding healthcare costs and resources with elected officials to ensure they get accurate information to improve the community.
  3. Public Policy
    Nurses have a direct influence on public policy because they have hundreds of patient experiences both positive and negative to draw from that provide real-life examples, highlighting the needs of patients and the outcomes of public policy on patient morbidity and mortality. By being a direct influencer of public policy change they are able to share the importance of appropriate healthcare services for all in the United States.
  4. Themselves
    Nursing can be a challenging career to take on, but that doesn’t stop the 3.8 million registered nurses from taking on the demanding roles of an RN. It’s important that those in the profession come together and be advocates for one another. The constant change in the healthcare system, from financials, healthcare reform, patient safety, technology, labor shortages, and the demands of patient care create opportunities for all those in the nursing profession to be a voice for the greater good.

What skills do nurses need to be good advocates?

Nurses have direct knowledge and encompass all the skills it takes to be excellent advocates. For those that want to be the voice of the nursing profession for any of the reasons listed above, they will need to possess a strong set of skills.

Transparency — Demonstrate honesty and communicate effectively
Teamwork — Work well with others and welcome opportunities for all perspectives.
Critical thinking — Make a clear, rational connection between ideas.
Problem-solving — Take a systematic and logical approach to find a solution.
Be Proactive — Work to create trusting relationships between patients, providers, and elected officials.

Advocacy is a critical part of the nursing profession. Nurses are the best fit as patient advocates because they are with patients daily. They know when patients are frustrated and confused about the healthcare system. Not only do patients rely on nurses but communities as well to educate them about their healthcare choices. With full transparency, nurses can position guide patients and local communities to make well-informed judgments about the healthcare system.

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