Advocacy in Nursing
It seems like such a complicated topic, doesn’t it? Advocacy in nursing. What is advocacy in nursing? Why is advocacy in nursing important? Who is the advocate? How do we advocate? We are here to answer these questions for you, because even though this topic in nursing is multifaceted and complex, we need nurse advocacy now more than ever.
Let us start with the definition. First and foremost, advocacy in nursing means many things. The easiest way to define nurse advocacy in our minds is through a list of all of the ways we must work towards nursing advocacy:
- Nurses need advocates
- Nurses need to advocate for their patients
- Nurses need to advocate for other nurses
So, what do each of these mean and how do they play a role in the way that the healthcare team operates? Let’s take a look at each one.
Nurses Need Advocates
We can’t stress this enough. Nurses need advocates, and we need them for many reasons.
Nurses are highly intelligent healthcare professionals who are absolutely essential to safe and effective patient care. However, there is a gap in understanding from both the general public and other healthcare providers about what nurses do, their scope of practice, and what their license allows them to do. With this gap in knowledge about our profession, there come inconsistencies in the ways that we are treated, respected, and understood with our own discipline. In many ways, nurses need advocates for autonomy. It is important to have the support, trust, and encouragement from your superiors to feel fully fulfilled. In a healthcare world that operates on hierarchy, it is important to have someone (often times a nurse manager, provider, or patient) who goes to bat for you. Nurses can definitely handle their own, but it would be really hard to practice safely if you were constantly feeling watched. Therefore, having someone who treats you professionally and advocates for you work is meaningful.
In addition, nurses need advocates when it comes to violence in the workplace. There is a campaign currently sweeping the nation discussing violence towards healthcare professionals and how unacceptable and intolerable this has become. Nurses are hit, spit on, grabbed, punched, and verbally abused on a daily, yes DAILY, basis. Nurses need advocates and resources to combat this entirely. There is no excuse, this is NOT part of the job, and violence will never be tolerated in our profession.
Nurses Need to Advocate for Their Patients
Yes, it is our duty to advocate for our patients. So, how can we do that? Many ways. You see, we spend the majority of the time with patient. We know more about them, their condition, their hospital stay, their family, and their goals than anyone else that they make work with during that stay. Due to this data gathering, we are in a position to make a true difference for our patients by advocating for what they want. It may be as simple as bringing them the coffee someone else forgot, or calling the provider to change something within the care plan. We must know our patients deeply in order to recognize changes that we can intercept. We must advocate for their comfort, care, and situation. We do not have to tolerate misbehavior or violence, but it is our responsibility to fight for our patients best interest and speak up when we feel strongly about something for them.
This brings up another point. It is important that we continue to advocate for safe staffing. This directly affects our patients, our licenses, and our safety. Our patients will never be safest with us if we feel spread thin. This does not necessarily mean advocating in Washing D.C. for legislative change, this can simply mean mentioning to your nurse manager when you feel like your patient load is making you uncomfortable or unsafe. That is patient advocacy that is not weakness. Speaking up shows strength, responsibility, discernment, and good judgment.
Nurses Need to Advocate for Other Nurses
Nurses advocating for other nurses is also two-fold.
Nurses have to, I repeat HAVE TO, advocate for one another. We hear horror stories all of the time about nurses that “eat their young” or horizontal violence and bullying from nurse to nurse. We simply do not have time for it. We do not, as an entire profession, have any room for that kind of behavior. We have way too much to lose at this point, and we, as a profession, have worked way too hard to earn the respect that we deserve and are continuously working towards to lose it due to pettiness. If nurses do not look out for one another and do not look out for this profession than who will? If we do not advocate for each other and take care of one another who will? If we do not help each other, learn from each other, and foster the less experienced nurses, than who will? The answer is nobody. Nobody will. Nobody will ever care about our profession like we do. We have to take care of it. We have to take care of each other. Advocate for your fellow nurses by helping them, speaking up for them, ensuring they are safe, being kind to them, and working as a unit with them.
There are also ways to advocate for your fellow nurses that involve you indirectly. There are many organizations, professional associations, and alliances built up by hundreds of nurses that work hard to create positive change in nursing. Not only is this an excellent way to stay up-to-date in the profession and what is going on with nursing as a whole, but also to advocate for your fellow nurses. It is important to work together as a team in nursing. It is important to stick together, advocate for us as individuals, our patients, and fellow nurses. It is important to remember how important nursing is and continue to fight for the respect that we deserve.
There is no such thing as a bad question about advocacy in Nursing. If you do have any questions about nurse advocacy feel free to reach out, anytime.