The Essential Role of Advocacy in Nursing: The Voice of the Voiceless

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Advocacy in nursing is a core nursing skill that makes nurses unique. An effective nurse advocate ensures their patients’ wants and needs are met and that they receive high-quality and safe healthcare delivery. Advocacy benefits not only patients but also nurses and healthcare organizations.

nurse with patient in hospital bed

Caregivers, educators and friends — nurses wear many hats and must be prepared to assume each role as needed and accept additional responsibility. While there are many roles nurses must play, advocacy in nursing is one of the most important.

Nurses use advocacy to establish trusting relationships with their patients. According to Gallup’s annual poll, patient advocacy nursing has such a lasting impact that it significantly contributes to why nurses remain the most trustworthy profession for over two decades.

In Averett University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, students are prepared to advocate for their patients while providing patient-focused, dignified care. During clinical rotations, students learn from experienced nurse advocates and practice their own nursing advocacy.

You may still wonder, “What is advocacy in nursing?” Advocacy in nursing is the promise every nurse makes to their patient to do the right thing — whether protecting their physical health, their rights and freedom to make health decisions or acting on their behalf when they cannot voice their wants or needs.

Let’s look closer at advocacy in nursing, why advocate nursing is vital and its many benefits.

What Is Advocacy in Nursing?

Advocacy in nursing refers to supporting and promoting every patient’s rights, needs and preferences. Nurses can be advocates for their patients in many ways by ensuring they receive respect, support and the best available care within the healthcare system.

Advocate nursing includes providing information and education that empowers patients to make informed health decisions. Nurse advocates may also be asked to speak on their patient’s behalf when necessary to ensure their voices are heard and their rights are respected.

Averett nursing student putting on stethoscope

Nursing advocacy also addresses systemic and societal issues within the healthcare setting that affect patient care and well-being. Nursing advocacy is a fundamental component of patient-centered care, aiming to uphold patients’ dignity, autonomy and well-being throughout life.

The Importance of Patient Advocacy

With the many responsibilities of a nurse, there are also challenges for nursing advocates. In some situations, different patient care team members, including the patient’s family, have other goals for the patient.

For example, after surgery, some family members may want the patient to return home as soon as possible to be in familiar surroundings and cared for by loved ones. However, others may be concerned with the patient’s safety at home and request they receive closer monitoring at a long-term care facility while they recover.

In this situation, nurses must advocate for their patients’ best interests, considering their wants and plan of care, and educate all involved on what needs to be done and why.

Another challenge can be navigating complex health insurance limitations on the type of care a patient receives. Nurse advocates often work together with patients, case managers and insurance companies to coordinate care. Whatever the decision, your patient’s voice must be included and advocate nursing ensures it is.

Primary Responsibilities of a Nurse Advocate

Averett ABSN student standing outside

The nurse advocate has several core responsibilities, some of which require direct interaction with the patient, while others happen behind the scenes. Let’s look at the main types of advocate nursing activities:

Educating Patients About Care Options

Education is a core competency of nurses, especially for nurses advocating for patients. Education is a way for nurses to explain complex medical and healthcare topics to their patients more straightforwardly and easily. Nurses also customize education to the patient’s specific situation.

Protecting Patients’ Rights

Advocate nursing also protects patient privacy by sharing information only with the care team or family members. Patients have the right to receive quality healthcare regardless of race, gender, age or ability to pay. Nurses are at the forefront of advocating for their patients.

Connecting Patients with Resources

Nurse advocates care for patients from many diverse backgrounds and circumstances. To maintain the highest quality of care beyond their interaction, nurse advocates can provide patients with resources and community contacts to continue helping them achieve their health goals long after a hospital stay or clinic visit.

Benefits of Patient Advocacy

The three main stakeholders in delivering top-quality healthcare are patients, nurses and health systems. The patient is the center, and nurses and the health system, such as hospitals and insurance companies, surround them — all three benefit from having strong nurse advocates.

Averett ABSN student outside walking

Below is a closer look at how each stakeholder benefits from advocacy in nursing.

Patient Benefits

If it’s not already clear, patients benefit immensely from having a nurse on their team. It can be overwhelming as a patient, but knowing your nurse will advocate for you and look out for your health and best interests can relieve some of the stress of any healthcare experience. A skilled nurse advocate excels in translating complex medical topics or finding language assistance if English is not the patient’s primary language.

Nurse Benefits

Nurses advocating for patients is a higher level of nursing care beyond the physical, placing nurses in an esteemed and well-respected position of trust in the healthcare system. The benefit of advocacy in nursing is that nurses can feel proud of the competent and culturally sensitive care they provide and their central role in ensuring patients get the best care.

Nurses can also advocate for workplace safety and improved working conditions. These changes benefit the nursing staff and patients by creating a better working environment where nurses can provide improved, patient-focused care.

Organization Benefits

Organizations that value their nurses and promote their role as advocates can establish a positive reputation in the community. Nurse advocates help streamline care and reduce wasteful tests and unnecessary admissions.

Organizations prioritizing support for nurses advocating for patients are more likely to retain their staff due to higher job satisfaction. Organizations that entrust nurses with an advocacy role confirm their support for patients and value their voices at the table.

Averett nursing student sitting and smiling

Become an Effective Nurse Advocate at Averett University

Becoming an effective nurse advocate starts in nursing school. Now that you understand why advocacy in nursing is critical to the healthcare system, you can enter nursing school ready to cultivate the necessary skills.

If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or a minimum of 60 college credits, you may meet the admission requirements for Averett’s ABSN program and earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing in as few as 16 months.

While in the program, you will learn how to communicate complex medical information to your patients, discover their most important goals and share their wishes with the healthcare team as a strong nursing advocate.

Contact us today to begin your journey as a leader and become a nurse advocate for your patients.