What is a Nurse Advocate?

A nurse advocate ensures optimal healthcare outcomes by influencing policies and treatments impacting patients’ quality of care.

Nurses are one of the most trusted, impactful, and frequently consulted healthcare providers in a patient’s life.

As a result, they have an exceptional understanding of the policies, procedures, and practices impacting patient care.

These nurses use their knowledge to ensure healthcare policies and professionals adequately meet their patients’ needs. 

What Do Nurse Advocates Do?

There are numerous responsibilities nurse advocates manage daily.

Nurses spend more time with patients than doctors or other healthcare professionals.

As a result, these professionals often act as a liaison between the physician and patient by providing valuable feedback.

Sometimes advised procedures and treatments don’t align with patient deliberations, thoughts, or beliefs.

For instance, patients may have specific religious or cultural beliefs that conflict with certain procedures/treatments.

In this case, nurse advocates must educate the patient and physician to better understand each other’s necessities.

It enables healthcare professionals to make appropriate accommodations to meet the patient’s needs.

It also allows patients to ask questions and resolve concerns so they are satisfied with the treatment and outcome.

Patient Care-Focused Duties:

  • Educate patients on treatments and procedures
  • Act as a liaison between the patient and physician
  • Support policy changes to improve patient well-being
  • Understand the impact of cultural beliefs on healthcare practices
  • Advocate for better patient resources, providers, and insurance
  • Educate patients on their diagnosis and treatments

Nurse advocates must listen carefully to patients and family members to determine their needs.

They use this information to develop care plans that meet the patient/family’s conditions.

Advocating isn’t about doing what’s easiest for the employee or physician.

It’s about ensuring the patient receives the care they want and need.

Advocating for Policy Changes

Most nurse advocates work at the healthcare facilities level, ensuring patients receive care and aid that suits their needs.

However, some professionals work in areas that affect policy change.

Nurse advocates have first-hand experience regarding how specific policies affect patient treatment and well-being.

As a result, they endorse policy changes that benefit patient health, treatment, and therapies to ensure optimal results.

The healthcare system is often scientifically focused on patient outcomes or managing hospital finances.

However, it doesn’t necessarily consider a patient’s beliefs, culture, values, or concerns.

A nurse advocate ensures that science, medicine, and hospital welfare don’t impede the patient’s interests and needs.

They integrate multiple patient care areas, including the patient’s views, concerns, culture, and beliefs.

Sometimes, hospital policies negatively impact patient care due to financial reasons or other demands.

For instance, hospitals may operate at minimal staff levels or reduce overtime to maximize profits.

Unfortunately, it negatively impacts the patient’s well-being by increasing nurse burnout and the risk of medical errors.

Nurse advocates support more suitable staff sizes and work policies to ensure nurses can adequately help their patients.

The right policies enable healthcare professionals to provide more personal, attentive, and thorough patient care.

Nurse Advocate Duties:

  • Gather feedback from patients and family members
  • Prioritize care based on patient/family needs
  • Open discussion with the community
  • Research policies that negatively impact patient care
  • Advocate better support and staffing for nurses
  • Determine opportunities for management improvement

Government/Federal Level Advocacy

Some nurse advocates work at the legislative and political levels of healthcare.

At this level, these professionals influence and shape broad, large-scale policies impacting the entire healthcare system.

Their unique background as direct care providers allows them to determine the impact of specific policies on patient care.

For instance, they advocate for better workplace policies and support for nurses and healthcare professionals.

Nurse advocates share first-hand experience of how specific policies negatively impact workplace performance.

It enables them to promote changes that improve the lives of the patients and the healthcare workers who support them.

The healthcare systems cannot operate adequately without properly supported nurses and healthcare specialists.

As a result, nurse advocates also support healthcare workers who provide direct and indirect patient care.

These nurses may act as local, state, or national political leaders.

Where Do Nurse Advocates Work?

Nurse advocates work in various settings focusing on patient well-being, outcomes, and healthcare policies.

It includes legal firms, hospitals, healthcare institutions, community centers, academic settings, government, and legislative branches.

A nurse advocate’s career and work setting influences their role, responsibilities, and reach.

For instance, a nurse advocates for a hospital support policies that affect that location or organization.

Those who work for state or government agencies influence more significant statewide/national guidelines.

Necessary Skills

There are numerous skills nurse advocates must master to ensure they deliver optimal patient care.

It includes management, research development, and improving healthcare from the patient’s viewpoint.

The following section explores these aptitudes to provide a straightforward outline of practical advocacy skills.

Management and Leadership

Nurse advocates act as a liaison between the patient and physician.

It enables them to address patient concerns and educate specialists on providing adequate care based on their needs.

They also work with healthcare, government, and legal institutions to change healthcare approaches that benefit patients.

Therefore, nurse advocates must have excellent management and leadership skills.

Research-Oriented

Medical treatments, healthcare policies, and patient care practices are continually evolving.

As a result, nurse advocates must research new policies, procedures, and treatments to determine how they affect patient care.

Regular research enables them to develop approaches to address patient needs while ensuring they receive adequate treatment.

Patient-Facing

Registered nurses support the healthcare outcomes of patients by providing direct care and medical assistance.

Nurse advocates provide further patient support through advocacy, policy changes, and treatment modification.

Therefore, they have a more distinct role in patient care.

All nurses are advocates for ensuring patients receive optimal outcomes.

However, these specialists influence care at the policy and treatment level by going beyond direct bedside care.

It requires them to develop a patient-facing, research-oriented management/leadership mindset.

Listening to patients’ needs is also extremely important.

It provides nurse advocates with valuable first-hand knowledge to take appropriate steps to meet patient needs.

How To Become A Nurse Advocate

The first step to becoming a nurse advocate is to obtain a degree from an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

Most nurse advocates possess an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

However, some registered nurses pursue further education to obtain an MSN or DNP degree.

A higher degree enables nurses to work at the highest level of advocacy in education, law, and government.

It also ensures they understand nursing, patient care, and healthcare policies adequately.

There are no specific certification requirements to become a nurse advocate. 

However, obtaining certifications, education, and experience to improve patient care and nursing practice is beneficial.

It allows aspiring nurse advocates to get employment at healthcare facilities, institutions, and government agencies.

Finally, many advocacy groups/institutions prefer registered nurses with at least six years of clinical experience.

Nurses must have direct experience and training to understand how policies, treatments, and procedures affect patient care.

Advocating for policy changes and alternative healthcare approaches without adequate knowledge isn’t recommended. 

Summary

Nurses spend more time with their patients than doctors or other healthcare professionals.

As a result, they have a unique perspective and knowledge regarding the factors affecting patient care.

Their understanding and viewpoint enable them to advocate for patient care and educate different healthcare specialists.

Ultimately, nurse advocates bridge the gap between patient concerns and treatments provided by healthcare organizations.

These experts use their knowledge and background to influence policy changes, healthcare approaches, patient treatments, and education.