By Verlia M. Brown, MA, RN, BC
In today’s healthcare system, one of the newest phrases is “advocacy in nursing.” What is advocacy? According to Webster’s Dictionary, it is “the act or process of advocating,” or “a public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.”
As nurses, we are made aware that our patients benefit from our care and that we must have their best interest at heart and look out for them when delivering quality nursing care. The code for nurses is “do no harm.” In the delivery of nursing care there are certain guidelines, policies, and regulations that nurses must follow as mandated by their institutions and or hospitals. The American Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics, their state licensing board’s regulations and the patient’s Bill of Rights also serve as guides.
When patients are hospitalized and often unable to fend for themselves, nurses must protect their rights to quality patient care and intervene for them when care or treatment is compromised, ensuring that patients get the care they deserve. It is the nurse’s prerogative to report and educate the persons involved who might infringe upon the patient’s right to recovery.
Along the continuum, we need a cadre of qualified nurses to care for the future patient care population. Experienced nurses must maintain their skills and educational competencies. Nursing students must be trained to the highest level. Technology continues to advance, especially in healthcare. In order to stay abreast of these advances, the educators must understand and embrace new technologies in order to maintain a progressive future in healthcare. A progressive future in healthcare also means ensuring that nurses have all the knowledge, tools and instruments necessary to embark upon a successful career in nursing. Ways of accomplishing this would include pleading the case for advanced educational training and by instituting the baccalaureate degree in nursing as the minimal requirement for entry into practice. It is imperative that we support the state nurses who are lobbying their state legislators to support raising requirements. Other professions are advancing their agendas, so why not nursing?
Nursing educators must be compensated and valued for the roles they are playing in securing the nation’s healthcare future. Currently, educator salaries are not on par with nurses working in the clinical setting, yet they have a tedious task to educate, nurture and transition new nurses into society and the healthcare system. If we want the best-qualified, trained nurses, the educators must be adequately compensated.
We depend on researchers to develop new, cutting-edge diagnostic tests as these tools are pivotal in the advancement and delivery of patient care, patient outcomes, prevention, and wellness. To ensure their availability and their increased sensitivity and specificity, government and private funding should be made available.
As an industrialized nation, health care should be a right and not a privilege. Nurses must educate the politicians, administrators and the public of the growing disparities and lack of healthcare for the citizens of America. Why should nurses take up the gauntlet? They are with the patients 24/7. Nurses know what is best for their patients. In order to have a voice and input into patient care delivery, nurses must participate in hospital committees, boards, forums, and town hall meetings.
Nurses must advocate for each other, as I argue in my book, “My Journey On Becoming A Nurse: Contributions To The Nursing Profession.” Experienced and retired nurses must have a platform to mentor their colleagues who are in need of help. New nurses entering the workforce may get frustrated and overwhelmed, but they should never give up because there are communities of people willing to help them.
Administrators should play their part on the road to advocacy in nursing by providing a safe workplace environment, equipment, and other tools that nurses need to perform their work in the delivery of care. It is imperative that nurses maintain their competencies. Adequate continuing education must be available along with other perks in order to enhance nurse-patient satisfaction.
Patients too must advocate for their nurses in whatever manner they know best. Therefore, I am asking all patients to let their voices be heard—their lives might depend on it.
About the author
Verlia M. Brown, M.A., RN, BC, author of “My Journey on Becoming a Nurse: Contributions to the Nursing Profession,” was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and immigrated to Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1967. Over her 38-year career as a critical care nurse at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, Brown took on a number of leadership roles, including President of the New York State Nurses Association and President of New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation (NYC HHC) Executive Council of Nurse Practitioners. She was the first NYC HHC nurse to serve on the American Nurses Association board of directors and delegate to the ANA’s United Nurses Association. Brown retired from nursing in March 2012 and is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International and Nurses House.