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The importance of nurse advocacy in patient care

The importance of nurse advocacy in patient care


According to Gallup’s annual Honesty and Ethics survey, nurses lead all other professions in trustworthiness for the 22nd year in a row. Respondents trust nurses more than any other professional, including medical doctors and pharmacists.1 This feeling of trust likely comes from the essential role that nurses play in health care settings, and their singular focus on their patients.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics for Nurses considers patient advocacy to be one of the most important roles of a nurse. Provision three of the Code states that nurses are entrusted to promote, advocate for and protect patients’ health, safety and rights.2

Keep reading to learn what nurse advocacy is, where nurse advocates work, and what services they provide.

What is nurse advocacy in health care?

In today’s complex health care environment, with changes in policy and new care delivery methods, it’s more important than ever that patients have someone to look out for their interests. Since nurses have the duty of care and can build a relationship during the time spent with patients, they are optimal patient advocates.3

According to descriptions given by nurses themselves, patient advocacy includes: protecting patients, acting as their voice, providing high-quality care, building interpersonal relationships, and educating patients about their conditions and the care they are receiving.4 Many nurses consider patient advocacy as a part of their job. But nurse advocacy is also a specialty role within nursing for those who excel at identifying patients’ issues and working within the health care system to provide them with the care they need.5 Nurse advocates possess a wide range of skills that make them well-suited to health care environments such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care centers, specialty departments, and non-profit organizations. Many also work as independent healthcare consultants.5

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary of a nurse advocate is $70,827, with 30% of nurse advocate positions earning more. The average compensation for a nurse advocate varies widely, pointing to a significant opportunity to advance in the career and earn greater pay based on education, skill level and experience.6

What Do Nurse Advocates Do?

The role of a nurse advocate is to safeguard patients’ rights, stand up for their interests, and ensure they receive the highest possible level of care. Nurse advocates are liaisons between patients and the doctors treating them. They help patients understand their diagnoses so that they can make educated decisions about their care. There may be conflicts between the patient and the doctors, due to the patient’s preferences and beliefs and in those times, a nurse advocate’s job is to mediate and help all parties come to mutually acceptable solutions.5

A nurse advocate’s responsibilities are primarily to:7

Safeguard patients

Ensure patients’ safety while they are in the health care facility as well as after they are discharged. This includes communicating with social workers or case managers to arrange home health care according to the patient’s needs.

Be the patient’s voice and act as an interpreter

Empower vulnerable patients and give them a voice to help them ask questions and get satisfying answers when doctors are discussing their diagnoses and their treatment options. Help to translate medical jargon into language patients can understand.

Protect the patient’s rights

Understand and communicate the patient’s personal wishes to family members, doctors, insurance companies and health care administrators.

Oversee health care documents and check for errors

Monitor information, physicians’ notes, prescription orders, and other materials, checking for and fixing any errors, oversights, or conflicts.

Help patients get access to resources

Nurse advocates can connect patients to resources within and outside of health care facilities to help with their medical needs and well-being. This might include transportation, financial assistance, and building support networks for both the patient and the caregiver.

The nurse advocate’s tasks may include educating patients about their conditions, available treatment options, and insurance benefits. Nurse advocates may champion certain treatments and tests that are indicated by their patients’ condition(s), and they will create a plan that meets the needs of patients and their families.5

How You Can Become a Nurse Advocate

There are just a few steps you will need to take to become a nurse advocate.8

  1. Earn your Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited university. 8,5 A BSN degree will provide you with more career options and a greater potential for higher pay and career advancement.9
  2. Take and pass the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) NCLEX-RN exam to work as a registered nurse.8,5
  3. Although there is no required certification to work as a nurse advocate, there are optional certification programs that train nurses to become certified healthcare advocates or patient care liaisons.8,5

You can also join a nurse advocate association to network with colleagues and keep up with the profession. These resources include:

  • Nurse Advocacy Association (NAA)10
  • National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF)11
  • Alliance of Professional Health Advocates (APHA)12
  • Independent RN Patient Advocates (IRNPA)13

Advocating on behalf of patients requires a wide range of skills to effectively communicate with patients and navigate today’s healthcare environment. An online BSN or MSN enables you to work as a nurse advocate while advancing your skills and updating your knowledge in this highly competitive, personally rewarding field.

Advance your career as a nurse advocate with an online degree from Oklahoma City University

The Oklahoma City University Kramer School of Nursing offers online RN-BSN and online MSN degree programs that provide the education and credentials that help you make a difference as a leader in health care and as an advocate for patients. With an RN-BSN or MSN, you’ll have the advanced skills you need to gain a competitive edge in today's healthcare industry.

  1. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/467804/nurses-retain-top-ethics-rating-below-2020-high.aspx
  2. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from nursingworld.org/coe-view-only
  3. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0969733019832950
  4. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/nop2.307
  5. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from topnursing.org/career/nurse-advocate/
  6. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Nurse-Advocate-Salary
  7. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from oncnursingnews.com/view/six-ways-nurses-can-advocate-for-patients
  8. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from nursing.jnj.com/specialty/nurse-advocate
  9. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/adn-vs-bsn
  10. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from nurseadvocacyassociation.org
  11. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from npaf.org
  12. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from aphadvocates.org
  13. Retrieved on October 18, 2022, from patientadvocates.com

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