People trust nurses. And research backs this up. According to a 2020 Gallup poll of adults in the United States, nursing was rated as the most honest and ethical field overall.
Nurses are in charge of taking care of individuals in their most vulnerable circumstances. They have a broad scope of responsibilities and must often serve as advocates for their patients.
In this post, we will explore:
- What is nurse advocacy?
- How can nurses act as advocates?
- What specific skills must a nurse advocate have?
What is nurse advocacy?
Nurses practice advocacy daily as part of their jobs. They advocate in many ways by serving as communicators, translators, and liaisons. Since nurses often have more direct contact with the patients, they may better understand the wants and needs of the patient than other people on the healthcare team. They help make sure patient needs are met and that they understand the various treatment methods.
Patients arrive at hospitals with a variety of needs and with diverse backgrounds. Having nurses on hand to listen to these patients and vocalize their concerns to staff is crucial.
For example, say an ICU patient is a Jehovah’s Witness and has significant hesitations towards specific procedures such as a blood transfusion. A nurse can help communicate between the patient and the treatment team regarding their condition in order to develop alternative treatment methods.
How do nurses act as advocates in the workplace?
Nurses act as advocates in many different ways within the healthcare space. According to Alvernia University, some of the more common methods include making patients a priority, helping patients make informed decisions, and being a resource.
Making patients a priority
Often patients face complex medical decisions that will play a significant role for the rest of their lives. Most patients have loved ones who may not always agree with specific medical procedures.
Say, for example, a minor needs a radiology exam, and their parents object due to concerns about the harm it could cause. The nurse could advocate for what they consider the patient’s best interest despite what the parents think.
This example is further complicated for advocacy purposes because it involves the informed consent of a minor.
Helping to make informed decisions
Patients have full agency when it comes to determining their treatment. It’s a nurse’s job to ensure that their right to make decisions is guaranteed despite what a physician might think.
Nurses can help patients understand the gravity of their decision and provide them with the information needed to decide on a treatment plan.
Being a resource
Nurses have an excellent opportunity to help outpatients in practical ways. Sometimes patients don’t feel comfortable talking to their doctors about their issues, especially those they think a doctor may not have time to address.
For example, if an older patient needs help finding a specialist in their area, a nurse may be able to help them set up an appointment.
What specific skills must a nurse advocate have?
Nurses who practice advocacy must have an array of skills to address the needs of their patients. The primary skills necessary for a nurse advocate include:
- Active listening skills
- Communication skills
Active listening skills
Since nurses have more direct contact with patients, they can hear their needs in unique ways. The best nurses can practice active listening to uncover the patient’s concerns and meet their various needs. Active listening skills involve being aware of a patient’s message through verbal and non-verbal cues.
A great nurse advocate has finely-tuned active listening skills and is an efficient communicator. As an advocate, nurses have to communicate between the patient and medical team.
All nurses need to have empathy, but advocacy takes it to another level. Being an advocate requires imagining what the patient is going through and acting in their best interest. Doing this requires a great deal of empathy.