As the healthcare providers who typically spend the most time with patients, nurses play a critical role in advocating for their patients. Strengthening nurse advocacy skills can promote improved patient safety and quality of care, which is one major reason why healthcare employers increasingly prefer or require BSN-prepared nurses.
Eastern Michigan University’s Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) online program builds advocacy skills through coursework that addresses essential elements of professional nursing, such as evidence-based practice, quality improvement processes and leadership. As a result, RNs can graduate in as few as 12 months, ready to meet the demand for BSN-prepared RNs and advance their careers.
What Is Nurse Advocacy?
Nurses advocate for their patients daily in almost everything they do — beginning with developing trust in the nurse-patient relationship.
Advocacy is central to the very definition of nursing. As stated in the Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice: “Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities; prevention of illness and injury; facilitation of healing; alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response; and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations.”
Why Is Nurse Advocacy Important?
The term “advocacy” may suggest organized efforts to support a cause. But everyday nursing activities offer many examples of advocacy, such as:
- Ensuring patients have a voice in their care
- Reporting safety issues such as hand hygiene compliance to prevent serious infections
- Double-checking medication orders to prevent errors
- Educating patients on managing care at home
- Connecting patients with community-based resources, such as food and nutrition programs for those experiencing food insecurity
- Taking a leadership role in promoting a safe and healthy workplace
Beyond the bedside, nurses advocate for patients and their profession as members of health-related boards and advisory committees. BSN graduates are recognized for their problem-solving, communication and leadership skills, which support involvement at this level.
Nurses also advocate to improve healthcare systems by making their voices heard at local, state and federal levels. The nursing profession’s unique ability to influence policy and decision-making stems from its significant presence.
Not only do nurses provide most patient care in hospitals, but they are the largest healthcare profession. Nurses are also the most trusted professionals overall. For the 20th year in a row, nurses come in first in Gallup’s 2021 Honesty and Ethics poll.
It only makes sense that nurses are involved in shaping policies that affect patients, healthcare workers, community health outcomes and the healthcare system. Key advocacy issues, according to the American Nursing Association, include:
- Ensuring universal access to essential healthcare services
- Funding nurse workforce development programs, especially in rural and underserved communities
- Allowing nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and training
- Funding improvements in public health, such as with information technology
- Mandating hazard pay for essential healthcare workers
- Enacting safe staffing laws
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing offers more information on policy and advocacy, including issue updates and action alerts.
How Does Eastern Michigan University’s RN to BSN Strengthen Advocacy Skills?
Eastern Michigan University’s online RN to BSN program builds on nurses’ clinical competencies to strengthen clinical reasoning, leadership and advocacy expertise. For instance, the RN Essentials of Professional Nursing Practice: Nurse as Advocate course is part of a three-course sequence that focuses on core elements of professional nursing.
Nurses also build advocacy essentials through coursework that emphasizes the following topics:
- Health disparities, which the CDC defines as “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations”
- Evidence-based research, systems-thinking and quality improvement initiatives
- Community-based nursing, including prevention, health promotion, ethical decision-making and cultural practices
- Healthcare delivery at local, state and national levels in response to disasters and bioterror events, including health equity considerations
In The Future of Nursing 2020–2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity, the National Academy of Medicine calls on all health professions to take action to achieve health equity. But the NAM turns to nurses, who are “powerful in number and in voice,” to lead the way.
Developing effective advocacy skills for patients, the nursing profession and the healthcare system can prepare nurses to drive improvements in health equity.
Learn more about Eastern Michigan University’s online RN to BSN program.