One of the most significant roles of nurses, besides direct care giver, is that of an advocate both for patients and for fellow nurses. What is advocacy? Advocacy can be defined as, “…using one’s position to support, protect, or speak out for the rights and interests of another” (Speak to be heard, 2014). So important is the role of advocacy in the nursing profession that the American Nursing Association emphasizes the responsibility that nurses have to advocate for their patient’s well-being in their Code of Ethics for Nurses and Scope and Standards of Practice. Ultimately, patients’ safety is dependent upon nurse advocacy, and with nurses being at the front lines of patient care they are in the best position to ensure patient safety.
The most prevalent advocacy strategy that can be used by nurses is that of education and knowledge. What I mean by this is first, educating ourselves to the full extent of our ability for the area in which we practice, and secondly, by knowing and understanding the laws and regulations for practice that govern our practice in our area. The more knowledge that we have as nurses, the more efficient our practice will be. Another advocacy strategy that is paramount to patient safety is simply nurses speaking up when they feel a patient’s well-being is in danger. This is not as simple for nurses in some places due to fear of repercussions; however, that culture is changing as the health care community is making strides to shift the nation’s priority towards that of prevention and well-being, bringing safety to the forefront. Lastly, an essential advocacy strategy for nurses is utilize effective communication skills with all colleagues and members of the healthcare team. Clear and effective communication between nurses and other members of the interdisciplinary care team is paramount to patient safety and overall patient outcomes. Most facilities, including the one in which I work, implement a standardized protocol of communication and team building (How Nurses, n.d.). In my facility we implement SBAR (situation, background, assessment, recommendation) and also S.T.A.R. (stop, think, act, review) as a method to guide nursing actions, and prevent medical error when it comes to patient care.