Why Patient Advocacy in Nursing Matters

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Patient advocacy in nursing goes beyond medical care alone and encompasses a broader range of responsibilities. From upholding patient dignity and providing high-quality care to communicating with fellow healthcare team members and remaining up to date on legal and ethical best practices, see why advocacy is so important.

nurse pushing patient in wheelchair

You may be considering a nursing career because you care about people and are driven to help those in need. After all, a nursing role demands clinical expertise and a deep commitment to advocating for patients. As a nurse, you can make a real difference in patients’ lives by advocating for their rights, well-being and dignity. Whether you are just beginning your journey into nursing or are a seasoned professional, acting as a nurse advocate is central to delivering high-quality, compassionate care.

Patient advocacy in nursing extends beyond traditional medical care alone; it embodies the commitment of nurses to fight for their patients. This advocacy is pivotal in health care, ensuring patients are heard and respected while receiving the best care.

In this post, we will explore some of the core principles of patient advocacy, provide nursing advocacy examples in a professional setting, and share how an education through Marquette University’s Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing program can help provide a solid foundation for a patient-focused nursing career.

What Are the Core Principles of Patient Advocacy in Nursing?

Any definition of nursing patient advocacy is grounded in several fundamental principles that guide nurses’ daily practice and interactions with patients, their families or loved ones, and other health care professionals. While a nurse advocate can stand up for a patient in many ways, promoting patient autonomy lies at the heart.

RNs can vary widely when discussing advocacy, as shown in a study published in the National Library of Medicine, but several common themes emerge from their collective viewpoints. Let’s examine these further and see what they might look like in practice.

nurse standing arms behind back smiling at camera

See more about how developing leadership skills is integral to a successful nursing career.

Upholding the Dignity of the Individual

One of the most critical aspects of patient advocacy is upholding the dignity of each individual. This principle is about more than just respecting patients; it’s about acknowledging their value as human beings, regardless of their health condition or background. Upholding dignity involves listening to patients’ concerns, respecting their privacy and providing care that recognizes their unique needs and preferences. It’s about making sure patients feel comfortable with the care they receive and confident they are in control of their medical care. At Marquette, our nursing education is rooted in Jesuit values emphasizing service, lead and caring for individuals on a holistic level.

Providing High-Quality Care

The commitment to providing high-quality care is another essential aspect of patient advocacy. This involves adhering to the highest medical standards and tailoring care to meet each patient’s needs. Nurses advocating for quality care continuously update their knowledge and skills, ensuring their day-to-day work is based on the latest evidence and best practices. This principle also includes advocating for necessary resources and support for patients, ensuring they have access to the best possible care. Nurses are critical in coordinating care and advocating for interventions that enhance patient outcomes.

doctor with nurses around a patient on bed with monitors

You can gain the knowledge to provide high-quality care as an MSN-educated nurse through Marquette, working with actual patients early in our five- or eight-semester curricula through in-hospital clinical rotations. You’ll gain confidence and experience in providing care while honing your patient communication skills under the guidance of skilled clinical instructors. Once you graduate, pass the NCLEX-RN and attain licensure, you will be ready to start impacting patient care.

Empowering Patients to Make Informed Decisions

Empowering patients with knowledge is at the heart of patient advocacy. This involves educating patients about their conditions and treatment options, ensuring they have the information they need to make informed decisions about their care. As the health care professionals with the most one-on-one contact with a patient, nurses play a vital role in this process. Nurses build a rapport as they communicate with patients and provide clear and concise information while answering questions and helping them understand the implications of different health care choices.

Empowering patients also means supporting them in expressing their preferences and concerns and then working to address their feedback both verbally and in their care plans. This approach leads to more patient-centered care and helps patients feel more in control of their health care journey.

Nursing Advocacy Within the Health Care Team

Nursing advocacy extends to interactions within the health care team, emphasizing collaboration and ethical patient care. Nurses serve as health care leaders, often communicating with each care team member. Other health care professionals have less face-to-face communication with patients or other care team members, so nurses are often best positioned to communicate across the divide. But how can nurses advocate for patients in discussions with other health care team members?

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Marquette nursing students sitting in hallway

Maintaining Knowledge of Patient Rights and Ethics

Understanding patient rights and medical ethics is crucial for effective nursing advocacy. Nurses must familiarize themselves with the legal and ethical frameworks surrounding patient care and speak up if the situation is legally or ethically fraught. This knowledge enables nurses to navigate complex situations and advocate for their patient’s rights and best interests.

Nurses face various moral dilemmas, from end-of-life decisions to consent and confidentiality issues, so they must be well-versed in these areas to provide ethical care and advocate for their patients effectively. Aside from Marquette’s Jesuit values, which include a sense of justice for the individual, our curricula include a course on ethics, policy and health care advocacy.

Serving as Interlocutor Between Patients and Fellow Medical Professionals

Nurses can often serve as a go-between for patients and the rest of their health care team, relaying patient needs, concerns and preferences to doctors, therapists and other health care professionals. This role is crucial in ensuring all team members know the patient’s perspective and base care decisions on it. A nurse’s ability to communicate effectively across the health care team is vital in developing comprehensive, patient-centered care plans. When nurses help patients communicate, everyone wins.

nurse with patient

Ready to Pursue an Impactful Career in Nursing?

If you think patient advocacy in nursing is important and are eager to enter a career helping others, Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN or Extended Option program might be the right path for you.

In five or eight semesters (depending on program modality), you can go from a non-nursing bachelor’s degree to a master’s-level nursing education. After passing the NCLEX-RN, you can enter the field as a licensed nurse ready to provide care and serve as a difference-making advocate.

Contact us today to begin a conversation about pursuing your future.