In any health care setting, the patient’s well-being has to come first. Any patient advocate is required to ensure that the patient is supported and empowered to make well-informed decisions as regards their health care. Patient advocates also need to have open and honest relationships with the said patients. In the article Defining Patient Advocacy in the Post-Quality Chasm Era, Gilkey and Earp (2009) point out that a single straightforward definition of patient advocacy is difficult to articulate. This is because the terminology has been used in several contexts, including ‘helping’ professions, such as nursing, special care professions, such as mental care, and legal professions. The American Nursing Association (ANA) defines nursing as protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations (Grace, 2009).
It becomes evident that this definition can be married to Gilkey’s advocacy definition, which cites supportive, protective, and educative roles that nurses play in their patients’ lives. In the last bit of the ANA’s definition of nursing, the ANA emphasizes that the profession should be carried out in context with the society around it. It should respond to the needs of the community as a whole. This looks at advocacy from a general societal point of view. Nurses should be able to care for the society as a whole while still maintaining a personal relationship with each patient. In addition, patient advocacy by nurses is emphasized by the profession’s strict ethical code of conduct. Nurses are bound by a strict code of ethics titled ‘Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements’. This ensures professionalism and deliverance of quality health care, which is entailed in the concept of patient advocacy. From the two definitions, which are advocacy and nursing, a correlation emerges. As professional caregivers, nurses play an informative role, which enables patients to make well-advised decisions about their health care. Nurses also play a protective role by ensuring that all measures taken are in the benefit of the patient. They also provide continued care to their patients thus developing personal relationships with them over time. All these roles are embodied in the concept of patient advocacy (Gilkey, & Earp, 2009).
In order to realize an effective patient advocacy, professionalism in nursing must first be attained. The ANA provided the guiding principles that help foster professionalism in the nursing profession. Topping of this list is professional regulation. It involves setting of standards for nurses by regulatory bodies. These standards include everything from ethical codes to educational standards and accepted methods of certification. They also include specialization. Nurses are advised to focus on a single field of expertise in order to improve the quality of service. Next, the ANA cites legal regulation, in which nurses are bounded by laws and statutes that relate to their profession. The ANA also requires from institutions to have standards and procedures that ensure professionalism. Lastly, nurses are required by the ANA to be self-regulatory. This involves self-assessment and accountability in the profession. By promoting competence and professionalism, the ANA provides a clear guideline that nurses are required to follow in order to efficiently advocate for their patients (Neuman and Dixon, 2010).
In their article, Gilkey and Earp (2009) state that according to research, healthcare institutions need to take a multilevel approach, which pertains to the patient advocacy. The advocacy should be both individual-oriented and system-oriented. First of all, patients should be provided with effective health care options and, on a broad scale, be adequately advised in order to easily navigate the health care systems. Apart from empowering the patients, Gilkey and Earp (2009) add that health institutions need to develop a more patient-oriented culture. They also say that health care options provided to the patients should be of top quality and be accessible. It is necessary to take into account the patient safety and financial status among other issues. Gilkey and Earp (2009) also expound on the rewards, which are to be obtained by nurses from patient advocacy. Research showed that there is obvious satisfaction of helping someone in need on the nurses’ part. Additionally, the quality of service offered by health institutions was generally improved in those institutions that embraced patient advocacy. The overall health outcomes of patients in these institutions were also seen to have bettered tremendously. Thus, the need for patient advocacy is evident in the benefits it offers, which include quality service and better results (Neuman and Dixon, 2010).
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In the book Nursing Ethics and Professional Responsibility in Advanced Practice, Pamela Grace (2009) shows how various nurses carry out advocacy roles and what is entailed in these roles. The book highlights the benefits of these advocacy roles to the nurse, patient, and the overall health care system thus emphasizing the need for patient advocacy. One of the key roles, according to Grace (2009), is the nurse’s role of informing and educating the patients. This role is crucial because it seeks to arm the patients with vital information so that they can make wise decisions on their health care. Advocacy also requires that the nurse values the patients and treats them with dignity; hence the valuing and respect role. Grace (2009) points out that this role embodies the issues of privacy, confidentiality, as well as quality health care. Patient advocacy also involve protecting. Grace (2009) views this role in terms of ‘flag-raising’ any injustices towards the patient. These three roles are mandatory if patient advocacy is to be effective (Grace, 2009).
Patient advocacy by nurses forms an integral part of the profession. It is necessary in order to ensure a healthy patient-nurse relationship. It also ensures the provision of quality health care to patients since issues like privacy and confidentiality are upheld. Additionally, nurses also offer a protective role, which serves the best interests of their patients. Generally, patient advocacy by nurses has numerous benefits both to the profession and to the patients.