Regardless of the type of illness or injury, adequate treatment, proper care, and patient well-being are primary to any healthcare system. Patient advocacy is an essential part of the healthcare industry. It ensures the rights of patients, as well as their caregivers. Advocacy includes speaking up to support patient rights, ensuring patients have the autonomy to make decisions about their well-being, protecting human dignity, and encouraging patient equality.
Usually, nurse practitioners are the most suitable advocates for patients. They apply principles of advocacy to enhance the overall wellbeing and care of patients. All nurses are required to advocate for the sick and injured.
To best serve patients, nurses need to have a team in order. That team comprises other healthcare professionals and staff with whom patients interact, along with the organizations supporting those services.
As a nurse, you can support your patients in many ways, including the following.
- Build Strong Skills
The more qualified you are, the better you possess actionable skills for patient advocacy. Research suggests that nursing professionals who acquire RN to BSN or MSN degrees are comparatively competent and have excellent nursing skills, including management, leadership, and communication skills. Hence, they are good at taking proper care of patients.
If you want to advance your career and skills but have no time for attending on-campus classes, you can consider opting for an online RN MSN degree to gain more experience and assimilate practices for patient advocacy.
- Enlighten Your Patients
One of the effective ways nurses can advocate for their patients is by educating them. Your patient would be engulfed with anxiety if they found out they have a chronic illness that requires lifetime management. This kind of situation induces stress. When you teach your patients about their illness or injury, including treatment plans, improvements and setbacks, and disease management, your patients become more satisfied and confident. They will be able to manage their health in the best possible way, which, in turn, creates the most useful layout for success.
- Ensure their Safety
Prioritizing patient health, wellbeing, as well as safety is necessary. Make sure the patient is safe during treatment in the healthcare facility. Ensure proper sterilization and storage of medical equipment. Any risks must be eliminated or minimized around the facility. When your patient is discharged, communicate with higher authorities or any social worker to help the patient with their home health needs after discharge.
- Keep Informing Your Care Team
Amongst healthcare professionals in any facility, nurses have the most direct and frequent interactions with patients. Nurses can notice even subtle variations in a patient’s behavior, health condition, or mood.
While nurses need to know any changes in the patient’s symptoms, the whole care team must also be updated about everything, from signs and treatment plans to patient wishes. Whether through documentation, in person, or at the meeting, nurses need to inform each healthcare professional who interacts with the patient about minute changes in the patient’s health.
- Be there for your patient and Listen to them
Patient advocacy is more than just about speaking up for your patient. It requires you to be there for the patient whenever something important happens and when they need you. When you begin a conversation with your patient and listen to their concerns, needs, and requests, it may lessen their stress, and subsequently, they get more comfortable in the hospital environment.
Patients may not always be right about their feelings because of the stressful atmosphere. However, their problems must be a top priority. Moreover, hearing symptoms from the patients themselves can help nurses and other healthcare professionals with a diagnosis of a condition.
- Verify Documentation
Every human makes mistakes. However, a minor error in your paperwork can place someone’s life at risk. Hence, you need to be careful while managing all the paperwork, documentation, directions, and reports. Consider reading all the previous paperwork and double-checking with other nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and physicians to avoid errors and misinformation. Clear any ambiguities before the beginning of the patient’s treatment.
- Help Patients Get In Touch With Resources
One way you can advocate for your patients is to help your patients connect with relevant resources inside and outside of your hospital facility to support their health. Learning about various organizations in your community that provide support like transportation, caregiving, and financial assistance can help you find resources for your patients. Some examples of offering resources to your patients include helping them with discharge documentation, providing transport to and from home for future checkups, and finding a social worker.
- Discuss With Your Patient About Self-Advocacy
While nurses advocate for their patients, teaching their patients to learn to advocate for themselves is crucial. No one plays a more vital part in a healthcare journey of a patient than themselves. You can discuss with your patients how they can effectively advocate for themselves and instruct them to put those into practice in the future. Help them enlist their concerns and queries they would want to ask their doctors. This practice aids patients in using the resources accessible to them.
Teaching self-advocacy to your patients will not only be helpful for situations where you are unavailable but will also develop a sense of control and confidence in them.
From providing emotional support to physical care, nurses are considered the building blocks of healthcare organizations. They apply their knowledge and skills to improve the well-being of patients. Regardless of specialty, nurses must work relentlessly to support patient rights, give patients autonomy to make their health decisions, and promote equality among patients. From protecting patients from harm and educating them to help them find necessary resources, there are many ways nurses can efficiently advocate for patients.