DiversityNursing Blog

Nurses Advocating For Patients

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Thu, Nov 29, 2018 @ 03:13 PM

hand-in-hand-1686811_1280The dictionary defines an advocate as someone who pleads the cause of another. An article from Loyola University Chicago says, in the Nursing profession, advocacy means preserving human dignity, promoting patient equality, and providing freedom from suffering. It’s also about ensuring that patients have the right to make decisions about their own health.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) believes Nurses make great advocates because they provide essential services, are knowledgeable about client needs, and interact closely with health care consumers across a variety of care settings and social groups. This gives Nurses a broad appreciation of health needs and an understanding of the factors that affect health care delivery.

Here are several ways Nurses advocate for their patients:

  • Nurses ensure their patient's safety while they’re being treated in a healthcare facility. When the patient is discharged, you communicate with case managers and other colleagues about the need for home health or assistance for when they go home. 

  • While the doctor explains a patient's diagnosis and treatment options, you translate that information from medical jargon in to understandable directives and help them with any questions. 

  • You educate your patients on how to manage their current or chronic condition as well as how to take their medications and any side effects they may experience. You help them improve the quality of their everyday life.

  • An article from The University of Texas at Arlington states, Nurses can and should advocate for healthcare equality. They should encourage others not to discriminate and model this principle themselves. Everyone deserves access to the same level of attention and compassion. Race, religion, socioeconomic status or other criteria should not be a factor in healthcare. 

  • Nurses help to prevent or manage their patient's suffering whether it’s physical, emotional or psychological. 

  • Nurse patient advocacy also includes speaking up while serving on committees or councils to solve problems and ensure patients receive the best care possible.

According to Nursejournal.org, there is no certification specific for a Nurse advocate, although more and more programs are being developed. As such, certification is the same as it is for a Registered Nurse, which is set out in the NCLEX-RN.

Your job is challenging, but very rewarding. You learn a great deal from the patients themselves and not just medically. You also learn about their cultures, families, religions and personal beliefs.

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Topics: patient advocate, nurse advocacy

How RNs Can Practice Patient Advocate Nursing

Posted by Brian Engard

Fri, May 26, 2017 @ 12:47 PM

patient-advocate-nursing-CU-600x280.jpgRegistered nurses are the most frequent point of contact with patients in healthcare. They “provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They typically work as part of a team with doctors and other healthcare workers, and they provide the bulk of direct patient care.

As hands-on caregivers, nurses have the primary responsibility of ensuring quality, ethical care for their patients. To this end, patient advocacy is an integral part of practicing nursing; in fact, one provision of the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics says that “the nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.”

Nurses oversee the healthcare of many patients and can be privy to concerning practices. Hospitals are required to look after their own financial well-being, legal obligations and other factors that can sometimes cause patient care to deteriorate, and sometimes healthcare workers make mistakes. When this happens, someone who practices patient advocate nursing steps in and looks out for the patients’ well-being.

Patient Advocate Nursing in Practice

American Nurse Today (ANT) defines advocacy as “using one’s position to support, protect, or speak out for the rights and interests of another.” This practice is vital in healthcare, because errors and oversights can result in severe injury or illness, or even loss of life. According to a Johns Hopkins study, medical errors are the No. 3 cause of death in the United States, at roughly 250,000 deaths per year. A nurse patient advocate must not only catch these errors, but also argue for their correction in the future in order to promote safety and patient health.

Of all the healthcare professionals who have contact with patients, nurses are the most ideally suited for patient advocacy. Their constant contact with patients allows them many opportunities to catch errors, such as mislabeled I.V. bags or incorrect patient charts, and their familiarity with their patients can give them the ability to notice small changes in patient condition that another healthcare provider might miss.

Patient advocacy is not without its challenges, however. Being a nurse advocate for one’s patients often means correcting the mistakes of other healthcare workers and can lead to confrontations. In extreme cases, such as the below example from ANT, retaliation can even occur:

“One of the most egregious examples of retaliation for patient advocacy activities occurred recently in Winkler County, Texas, when two nurses, Vickilyn Galle and Anne Mitchell, were criminally indicted by the county attorney for reporting a physician to the Texas Medical Board because of patient-safety concerns. One week before trial, charges against Galle were dropped. A jury found Mitchell not guilty. Subsequently, the Texas Medical Board took action against the physician for witness intimidation as well as practice violations. Further, the Texas Attorney General’s office indicted the hospital administrator, Winkler County sheriff, county prosecutor, and physician for retaliation and other charges.”

The American Journal of Critical Care suggests that the best way to avoid such conflicts while practicing patient advocacy is to embrace a spirit of collaboration with other healthcare professionals, rather than taking the attitude that it is the nurse’s job to protect patients from the mistakes of others. When advocating for a patient, it’s natural to have an impulse to cast blame or render judgment of someone putting that patient at risk. While that may or may not be justified, often it’s more effective for the patient and the organization to approach patient advocacy by presenting solutions and trying to understand why problems exist in the first place, in order to better prevent them from occurring in the future.

Going from RN to BSN

Developing the right knowledge and communication skills to be an effective nurse patient advocate takes training. With an online RN to BSN degree from Campbellsville University, you can learn those skills in order to better advocate for your patients. Study in a flexible, dynamic environment with a schedule that works for your life.

Topics: registered nurse, patient advocate, Patient advocate nursing

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