The role of a nurse as a patient advocate is vital in ensuring quality care and protecting the rights of patients. Advocacy involves serving as a bridge between patients and the healthcare system and advocating for their autonomy, self-determination, and basic human rights. Nurses are responsible for promoting a safe and clean environment and addressing any issues that may go unnoticed or unaddressed by the patient or their family. (Gerber, 2018).
In a recent situation, the author describes advocating for a patient who exhibited signs of potential suicide risk during the admission assessment. Despite the hesitation of the charge nurse and preceptor, the author recognized the importance of following the hospital’s suicide screening tool and evidence-based practices. By obtaining an order and placing the patient on suicide precautions, the author prioritized patient safety and well-being. Although this decision may have resulted in some dissatisfaction among colleagues, it garnered respect from those who recognized the importance of doing the right thing (Gerber, 2018).
The concept of patient advocacy is deeply rooted in the nursing profession. The American Nurses Association (ANA) highlights patient advocacy as a professional responsibility of nurses to protect the rights of patients (Gerber, 2018). Advocacy involves actions aimed at ensuring patients receive quality care and are actively involved in the decision-making process. Nurses play a pivotal role in being a voice for patients who may not have one, providing them with comfort, support, and reliable information to make informed healthcare choices (Gerber, 2018).
Advocacy also extends beyond the individual patient and encompasses larger issues of healthcare access, equality, and social justice. Nurses advocate for policies that promote health equity and address the social determinants of health, aiming to reduce health disparities and improve overall population health outcomes. By advocating for systemic changes, nurses strive to create an environment that supports the well-being of all individuals (Gerber, 2018).
Nurses face various challenges in their role as patient advocates. These challenges can stem from hierarchical structures within healthcare organizations, lack of resources, resistance to change, and conflicting priorities among healthcare professionals. Additionally, ethical dilemmas may arise when advocating for patients, as nurses may be torn between respecting patient autonomy and acting in their best interest (Gerber, 2018).
In order to effectively advocate for patients, nurses must possess key skills and attributes. These include strong communication skills, the ability to build trust and rapport with patients, critical thinking skills to identify and address patient needs, cultural competence to respect diverse perspectives, and knowledge of healthcare policies and regulations (Gerber, 2018).
Nursing education plays a critical role in preparing nurses to be effective patient advocates. The curriculum should emphasize the importance of advocacy and provide students with opportunities to develop the necessary skills and attitudes. This can be achieved through simulation exercises, case studies, and clinical experiences that highlight the complexities of patient advocacy (Gerber, 2018).
In conclusion, the role of a nurse as a patient advocate is essential in ensuring quality care, protecting patient rights, and promoting health equity. Nurses act as a voice for patients, bridging the gap between patients and the healthcare system. They advocate for patient autonomy, contribute to the decision-making process, and address issues that may go unnoticed or unaddressed. Despite the challenges and ethical dilemmas that arise, nurses play a vital role in promoting patient safety, well-being, and overall healthcare outcomes.