Advocacy in nursing practice requires a well-informed perspective on ethical and legal contexts as well as ethical authority. The role of nurse advocates is to be the voice of patients in order to navigate the challenges of complex health systems and empower them in making informed decisions. In daily practice, nurses can apply advocacy through open dialogue with the courage, to be honest, and exercise an appropriate level of autonomy. To become effective advocates, nurses should have the support of employers and health institutions as a whole. Advocacy becomes a collective element that requires institutional collaboration (Tomaschewski-Barlem et al., 2016).
The following are three examples of advocacy demonstrated by nurses in practice:
- A doctor assigned a procedure without explaining to a patient its necessity, which made the woman reluctant to get it. The nurse wanted to protect the right of the patient to refuse any medical intervention until she understands its purpose. By providing the patient with information and asking the doctor to return and speak to the patient, the nurse helped the patient make an informed decision.
- A nurse changed the system to meet the needs of others after a hospital-provided meal had a type of meat that a patient could not eat for religious reasons. The hospital could not offer alternatives for the main course. Not only did the nurse seek to get food for the patient but she also started a hospital-wide initiative to ensure the administration financed a more nutritionally variable and diverse menu.
- After providing prescriptions and discharging an elderly patient, the nurse was informed that the woman was homeless. The nurse made sure to contact social services that would be able to find housing for the patient and direct her to resources that could help her get the necessary medication. That was a demonstration of caring for the humanness of all.
Advocacy demonstrates the professional power of nursing but greatly contributes to the improved delivery of care as well. Patient advocacy is often associated with drastic scenarios which lead to large systemic change. However, on a daily basis, nurses can use advocacy in nursing practice by showing themes of protection and empathy for patients. Protection includes prioritizing patient health and dedication to the completion of treatment while ensuring all patient rights are supported. Empathy includes understanding and sympathizing with the patient to better understand their needs and struggles (Davoodvand, Abbaszadeh, & Adhmadi, 2016).
All of these aspects can be met through maintaining open communication, showing attentiveness, care, and respect for the patient. Advocacy can be accomplished only if a nurse is able to understand the needs and feelings of a patient.
Empowering patients is critical. There was a situation where a nurse was providing care for a military man. It seemed that he was experiencing substantial pain, but his training and demeanor prevented him from voicing his discomfort. The nurse sought to empower the patient to be more communicative to ensure he received the best treatment and did not feel uncomfortable voicing his concerns about pain. Another example of advocacy was a nurse who sought to promote the autonomy of diverse cultures and ensure respect for others. A patient who was a devout Muslim needed to pray every morning.
However, other patients in the room felt extremely uncomfortable with this, to the point of ostracizing the Muslim man. The nurse sought to resolve this by contacting her superiors for permission to move the patient (with his permission) to a one-person room where the man could have the necessary privacy for religious practices without disturbing the comfort of others. Finally, there was a critical situation of a mother ending up in the ICU after giving birth. The mother wanted to see her child in case she died but hospital policy did not allow this. A nurse advocated with the hospital administration to make an exception and was later able to change the policy to allow ICU visitations in critical situations. The nurse practiced advocacy by changing the system.
Davoodvand, S., Abbaszadeh, A., & Ahmadi, F. (2016). . Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, 9, 5. Web.
Tomaschewski-Barlem, J. G., Lunardi, V. L., Barlem, E. L., Ramos, A. M., Silveira, R. M., & Vargas, M. A. (2016). How have nurses practiced patient advocacy in the hospital context? – A Foucaultian perspective. Texto & Contexto, 25(1), 1-9. Web.