Become a Stronger Patient Advocate

Florence Nightingale is credited with being the first nurse to advocate for patients. She pushed for sanitary conditions, proper ventilation, healthy meals for patients and more. While both ADN and BSN nurses are prepared to be patient advocates, an education at the baccalaureate level may strengthen advocacy skills. This is crucial because the healthcare system continues to become more complicated for patients to navigate.

What Does It Mean to Be a Patient Advocate?

Nurses who support the interests, decisions and safety of patients and their family members are advocates.

Why Is It the Responsibility of Nurses to Be a Patient Advocate?

Advocacy is a fundamental component of the nursing practice, so it is a nurse's responsibility to look out for the health and welfare of their patients. Healthcare organizations such as the American Nurses Association and the International Council of Nurses uphold advocacy as a key role in nursing.

How Do Nurses Fulfill the Role of Patient Advocate?

RNs work directly with patients, which allows them to build professional relationships. Through daily contact, nurses learn about a patient's preferences and values.

Life-support technology and innovative techniques in healthcare pose risks and ethical questions for patients and their families. Adding to the confusion is the movement of patients from hospitals to ambulatory care facilities and the introduction of multiple healthcare professionals.

Nurses can help patients and family members decide on the best course of action. They may help patients by educating them about their illnesses or injuries, providing facts about treatments and guiding them through procedures.

What Steps Do Nurses Take to Advocate for Patients?

Advocates adhere to a patient's directives. Typically, nurses may take the following steps to form an advocacy strategy.

  • Assess a patient's needs, alertness, cognitive function and understanding of their rights.
  • Identify the patient's health goals.
  • Explain hospital and community agency policies and clinical information in terms that patients can comprehend.
  • Facilitate communication with members of the healthcare team so they are informed about a patient's goals and preferences.
  • Evaluate the plan along the way and make adjustments as necessary.

Why Is Patient Advocacy Important?

Advocacy is important because it may reduce the chances of errors and harm to patients. Primarily, nurses may need to speak on behalf of their patients and collaborate with the healthcare team if problems occur.

Sometimes nurses have to step in when patients refuse care or are unable to express their concerns about their care. Patient advocates defend the choices, rights and privacy of patients. Nurses may advocate for all types of patients:

  • Underage
  • Mentally ill
  • Illiterate
  • Impaired
  • Unconscious
  • Uninformed

How Does Having a BSN Make Nurses Stronger Patient Advocates?

ADN nurses are educated to provide excellent nursing care and advocate for their patients. When ADN nurses complete a BSN, they receive additional instruction that helps them become better patient advocates.

Nurses with a BSN learn how to boost their nursing competencies, amplify their communication proficiencies, expand their scientific knowledge and gain cultural awareness about the diverse patient population. 

What Attributes Make Nurses Effective Patient Advocates?

Nurses who are problem-solvers and attentive listeners tend to make good patient advocates. They are:

  • Accountable
  • Empathetic
  • Flexible
  • Nonjudgmental
  • Objective
  • Self-motivated

Patient advocacy is part of a nurse's commitment to the standards of the nursing practice. Nurses should always be dedicated to safeguarding patients and providing safe and quality care. A BSN can foster a deeper insight into the complications and hazards that patients may experience in the healthcare system, and it prepares nurses to use their expertise and skills to increase the likelihood of successful outcomes. Nurses working as patient advocates can ease a patient's stress and discomfort to help them focus on their health and well-being.

Learn more about the University of New Mexico's online RN to BSN program.


DiversityNursing Blog: How RNs Can Practice Patient Advocate Nursing Florence Nightingale

Nursing2019: Understanding the Nurse's Role as a Patient Advocate

American Nurses Association: Advocacy

International Council of Nurses: Nursing Definitions

Nurse Choice: The Role of a Nurse in Patient Advocacy

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice If You're a Nurse, You're a Patient Advocate The Importance of Nurse Advocacy

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