nurse and smiling pediatric patient with clasped hands
Profiles and Features June 13, 2018

By Erin Wallace

Nurse Advocacy: 3 Ways to Become a Better Nurse Advocate

A continually evolving healthcare system means patients rely more and more on guidance from nurse-patient advocates. 

In the American Nurses Association (ANA) code of ethics, advocacy is considered a pillar of nursing.  

After all, nurses instinctively advocate for their patients, in their workplaces, and their communities. 

When it comes to nurse advocacy, not all nurses may know what is expected of them, and sometimes workplace rules can make nurse advocacy difficult.  

Learn how you can become a better nurse advocate for patients.

What Is Nurse Advocacy? 

According to an article in American Nurse Today, nurse advocacy means using your professional position to “support, protect, or speak out for the rights and interests of another,” including patients. Many nurses consider nurse advocacy an essential part of their practice. 

Shanna Shafer, a 10-year veteran RN who has worked in ICU, home health, and hospice settings and is now the strategic communications director of BestNursingDegree.com, says that the healthcare system is often more complicated than patients are prepared to deal with, especially when faced with a health crisis or new diagnosis. 

“A nurse who can help patients and families navigate the complex web of the healthcare industry is a valuable resource,” says Shafer.

3 Tips For Effective Nurse Advocacy 

1. Suspend Judgment 

Shafer explains that the first step to better patient advocacy is to suspend judgment. Nurses often forget that the knowledge they possess is different than the common knowledge of patients. 

“To act as an advocate, a nurse must first remove any preconceived notions and start where the patient is in the process.”  

“Listening, without judging, is crucial to determine exactly what your patient needs and will provide you with the starting point for advocating for those needs.” 

2. Practice Communication Skills

After suspending judgment, an effective nurse advocate for patients can use their excellent verbal, written, and electronic communication skills to advocate for patients.  

According to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, “advocates need to communicate clearly and concisely and to structure the message to fit both the situation and the intended audience.” 

3. Stay Informed 

The next component to practicing effective nurse advocacy for patients is to educate yourself.  

Shafer recommends exploring “community resources, gathering information about what's available in your area for help with education, payment options, transportation, interpreter services, healthcare coverage, and daily living assistance.” 

Once nurses know what resources exist, they can better direct patients and their families to the help they need. 

“Oftentimes,” says Shafer, “navigating through the system is the most complex part of assessing healthcare services, so your assistance in this aspect of care is invaluable.” 

When nurses put these tips into practice, they can become better nurse advocates for their patients and strengthen their relationships with patients and their families.

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