Advocacy for nurses goes beyond just advocating for the patients (Gaylord & Grace, 1995). Being a nurse advocate also encompasses standing up for what is ethical in nursing practice and for the profession itself. Nursing history provides us with many strong role models that acted to change the profession, starting with Florence Nightingale. She established the foundation for nursing practice being recognized as a profession, and set guidelines for nursing standards for her time (Sanford, 2012).
Dorothea Dix helped to reform mental health by collecting data on mentally ill patients, and after forming a partnership with a well-known physician, was able to petition for the first state mental health institution in Massachusetts (Petiprin, 2016). After the success there, she proceeded to campaign in other states. Dix then asked for federal funding for the mentally ill, and became frustrated with the lack of action. She went to Europe and continued working for reform abroad until her services were required during the civil war, where she was appointed as Superintendent of United States Army Nurses. After the war, she continued to be a voice for the mentally ill, but due to the countries financial issues, was unable to see reform.
A modern nurse advocate is Rose Ann DeMoro. She is the executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United (Marinucci, 2010). One of her greatest accomplishments was getting patient-nurse ratios approved for the state of California. She is expanding her sights to other states to improve work conditions for them as well. Advocating for other nurses is part of our obligations to each other.
According to Zolnierek (2012) challenges exist for the nurse advocate. Nurses may lack communication skills that clearly demonstrate the need for policy change. They may also be afraid of retaliation when policy changes disrupt the normal flow or creates problems for organizations. Understanding how to address an issue can also be an uncertainty. Policy changes may require many people to come together to find a strategy that solves the problem. Finding evidence-based resources that demonstrate the need for policy change is something the advanced practice nurse is educated to do. The increase of education level can lead to great change in the future of nursing.