An advocate is someone who serves as a supporter, partner, friend, confidante, cheerleader and more. Nurses wear all of these hats at one time or another — sometimes all for the same patient. Advocacy is as essential to the role of a nurse as any other aspect of nursing care. Interacting with patients more than any other healthcare provider, nurses are in the perfect position to serve as patient advocates. Nurses use a number of techniques and follow many principles to be excellent patient advocates.
Nursing Code of Ethics
Nurses must adhere to the Code of Ethics of the American Nurses Association (ANA), which addresses the issue of patient advocacy in nursing. That advocacy involves supporting patients in many ways.
Healthcare Equality for All Patients
According to the Code of Ethics, all nurses must care for patients “with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and uniqueness of every individual, unrestricted by considerations of social or economic status, personal attributes or the nature of health problems.” Everyone should have equal access to healthcare, and all nurses should adhere to the principle of universal human value.
Nurses have a responsibility to advocate for equal access to care. 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 can and should advocate for healthcare equality. They should encourage others not to discriminate and model this principle themselves.
Alleviation of Suffering
Sadly, there is a great deal of suffering that occurs in the healthcare setting. As their patients’ advocate, nurses have a responsibility to address suffering. Nurses need to observe each patient and assess their level of discomfort because suffering is relative. There are two categories of suffering: the illness, disease, injury, diagnoses or treatment and problems caused by the healthcare system, such as medical errors.
Some of the areas where nurses can advocate for their patients include pain management and reducing physical suffering. Nurses can also address mental, psychological or emotional suffering.
Promotion of Human Dignity
Paying attention to and preserving human dignity includes maintaining the patient’s autonomy, respect and privacy. Nurses must abide by patients’ wishes regarding healthcare choices, and nurses must also remind patients that they have control over their bodies and their care.
Nurses can respect patients by not talking down to them, literally or figuratively. When it comes to privacy, nurses can discuss private matters discreetly. Respecting modesty is another way nurses can be conscientious.
Techniques for Implementing Advocacy
What does patient advocacy look like in practice? The following are some examples of advocacy techniques and strategies:
- Have the information patients need or know how to obtain it.
- Present necessary information to patients clearly, concisely and in terms they can understand.
- Respect people’s wishes even when they conflict with our own.
- Stay objective at all times.
- Encourage patients to make their own choices about their healthcare.
Advocacy in nursing is very important for quality care and patient satisfaction. Always strive to be the best advocate you can. We owe our patients and their loved ones nothing less.
Learn about UTA’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program.
NurseChoice.com: The Role of a Nurse in Patient Advocacy
National Library of Medicine: Understanding Equality and Diversity in Nursing Practice
American Nurses Association:
Code of Ethics for Nurses
The Ethical Responsibility to Manage Pain and the Suffering It Causes
The Nurse’s Role in Ethics and Human Rights: Protecting and Promoting Individual Worth, Dignity, and Human Rights in Practice Settings
Oncology Nursing Society: What Florence Nightingale Taught Us About Advocacy