Patient advocacy: 3 reasons nurses must take on the role

nurse with clipboard

Nurses have the most interaction with patients and therefore are in the ideal position to serve as patient advocates, according to a new blog series from American Sentinel University (ASU).

The blog examines three central values of nursing patient advocacy: promoting patient equality, preserving human dignity and ensuring freedom from suffering. The first two posts in the series are available online, and the third will be released by June 28.

The university chose to release the blog series because nurses, as the medical professionals who spend the most time directly communicating with patients, make excellent advocates for them, according to a statement. "As nurses, we are educated and passionate about the health and safety of our patients and willingly accept our role as advocates for our patients," says Judy Burckhardt, R.N., dean of the nursing and healthcare programs at ASU.

The post on promoting equality notes that there are two main themes for nurses to keep in mind: the universal value of human life and access to needed healthcare resources for all. An example of nurses confronting the first point, according to the post, is those who cared for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after a long police search for him. “These nurses were able to overcome their ambivalence about caring for the bombing suspect in order to do their jobs with skill, professionalism and even compassion, as they provided comfort and pain relief in a difficult situation,” according to the blog.

The post encourages nurses to continue to treat underprivileged and vulnerable groups of people, but also calls on them to advocate for ways to end disparities in access to needed care. Cultural competency can help minority patients overcome barriers they face, according to the blog.

The second post defines human dignity as a patient’s self-worth and self-respect, and says that a key part of a nurse’s role as an advocate is to maintain that dignity throughout the continuum of care. Being sensitive to a patient’s demographic and his or her own personal needs is necessary to do this, according to the post, though many nurses and medical professionals may be hurried in their day-to-day work.

Elderly patients require respectful communication, according to the post, as instructions or information may need to be repeated or explained in more detail. Avoid treating such patients like children, the post notes, and offer autonomy when possible, as that may be the key to preserving dignity in some older patients.

- here's an overview about the series
- read the first post
- read the second post
- here’s the statement