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The Role of the Nurse as Patient Advocate

The Role of the Nurse as Patient AdvocateWhen you think about it, nurses are the superheroes of health care. While they don’t leap tall buildings in a single bound or race speeding bullets, these extraordinary caregivers seek justice for their patients, especially society’s most vulnerable. Requiring strengths such as courage, compassion, and competence, the role of the nurse as patient advocate is a powerful one that’s taking health care to the next level.

The health-care industry, in the wake of our nation’s mounting nursing shortage, has finally realized the critical role nurses play in delivering quality, efficient patient care. After all, nurses have the most interpersonal contact with patients, putting them in the best position to act as liaisons between patients and families or patients and physicians.

Furthermore, the American Nurses Association (ANA), in its code of ethics, states “the nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.”

And as many health-care articles have suggested, when nurses have more responsibility in patient care management and a louder voice in workflow design, not only does public health improve, the entire health-care system becomes more effective.

a true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength but by the size of his heart

What does it mean for a nurse to be a patient advocate?

The dictionary defines an advocate as someone who pleads the cause of another. In the nursing profession, advocacy means preserving human dignity, promoting patient equality, and providing freedom from suffering. It’s also about ensuring that patients have the right to make decisions about their own health.

Examples of advocacy range from lending patients a friendly ear to providing additional information to a patient who is trying to decide whether or not to accept treatment. But as a patient advocate, nurses must provide support in an objective manner, being careful not to show approval or disapproval of a patient’s choices.

According to RN Central, however, nurses often face several barriers when trying to effectively advocate for their patients, with the biggest hurdle being at the institutional level. Depending on the employer, some nurses receive little or no support from administrators, physicians, or peers when trying to carry out the patient advocacy role.

How do we prepare nursing students to be patient advocates?

A hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.

In keeping with our university’s promise to prepare people to lead extraordinary lives, our 16-month ABSN program, which is framed within the context of strong Jesuit, Catholic values, does more than just prepare you for a successful career in nursing. It also empowers you to go out into the world and serve as an agent of change in the service of others.

As an accelerated nursing student at Loyola University Chicago, you’ll learn how to treat individuals with integrity and compassion as well as provide quality, evidence-based care to diverse patient populations.

More specifically, we’ll teach you how to:

  • Facilitate open dialogue with patients about symptoms and self-care habits.
  • Give patients and their family members a wide latitude for asking questions.
  • Act with kindness when delivering competent care to all walks of life.
  • Address the unique religious and/or cultural needs of patients.
  • Incorporate ethics and legal knowledge into nursing care.
  • Integrate scientific evidence and patient/family preferences into nursing care.
  • Understand the influence institutional policies and government have on public health.

“We are dedicated to moving the world forward, and to do so we must be able to encounter philosophies that we disagree with and have conversations that sometimes make us very uncomfortable,” said Jo Ann Rooney, president of Loyola University Chicago. “Only when we take the time and spend the intellectual energy to learn all sides of an issue will we be able to successfully engage and advocate for our position.”

Becoming part of the Loyola community means becoming part of something bigger than yourself. Together, we’ll take on society’s most vexing health issues and look for ways to eliminate the health-care disparities that exist across neighborhoods and communities.

Did you know it’s the year of patient advocacy?

Being a nurse carries a certain amount of clout in society ― just look at the annual Gallop Poll results for the past 16 years. It’s a profession that continues to earn top honors for ethics and honesty.

Nurses also have the power to change lives and make the world a better place, part of why the American Nursing Association declared 2018 the Year of Advocacy. The group has dedicated 12 months to draw attention to the fact that nurses can use their influence to shape and bring about change in our nation’s health care system.

“Advocacy is part of a nurses’ ethical obligation and a natural extension of caring,” said Lisa J. Sundean, Ph.D. and ANA board member.

Ready to change the world?

As a Loyola University Chicago student, you commit yourself to be a person for others, someone devoted to tackling the most complicated issues and doing what you can to elevate the most marginalized in our society. As a Loyola ABSN program graduate, you’ll enter the workforce a team-based, practice-ready nurse who serves with a passion for justice — even though scrubs don’t come with capes, power rings, or lassos of truth.

To learn more about the role of nurses in patient advocacy, contact our ABSN program admissions team today!

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