Nurse Patient Advocates

As a nurse, being a patient advocate means to defend the rights of and be a supporting voice for the patient.

This is broken down into two parts:

  • Actively participate in patient’s care by supporting their rights, communicating health care needs to their medical team and provide information to the patient to assist them in making decisions
  • Participate in the broader efforts to improve the health care environment, safety standards and quality of care for patients.

Being an advocate is a vital part of being able to provide quality care because patients who are ill or injured are often too scared and vulnerable to think as clearly as they normally would.  Because of this, they can neglect to ask follow up questions to their doctor, leave out important health information on hospital forms or agree to procedures that they are not entirely comfortable with. A nurse patient advocate fills this gap by helping patients know what questions to ask, conduct follow up research on the patient’s behalf and communicate decisions by the patient to their medical team and family members.

Advocacy as a nurse also includes looking out for the patient indirectly. When in the role of a patient advocate, a nurse will routinely review medical charts to look for any errors or dramatic health care changes. Doing this can catch potential problems in advance. For example, if a prescription drug is scheduled to be administered and the nurse senses that the dosage amount is incorrect due to a data entry error, he or she will act as a voice of the patient and do the due diligence needed to confirm the dosage amount before administering it to the patient.

Advocates also play a large role in patients undergoing surgery. Their job is to make sure that patients fully understand the scope of the surgery, where it is being performed, recovery time and any complications that may be involved. Their role isn’t necessarily to explain those details to the patient but to make sure that the patient has received those details from the doctor or surgeon and that they have had all of their questions answered before the scheduled surgery time.
Communicating with patient family members is another significant role for advocates. There are times when a patient is not comfortable sharing health care choices or medical information with family members. An advocate will act as a liaison to family members on such topics or relay information from the patient when family is unable to visit the patient directly.

To summarize, all certified registered nurses are expected to incorporate patient advocacy into their practice. Nurses have gained a reputation as being the most trusted voices of the health care industry because they truly represent the sick and injured that look to them for help and healing. Through advocacy, nurses can serve their patients better and play an active role in their recovery.

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by Linda Bright

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