1. Maine, Jillian BSN, RN

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One of the earliest and most important nursing roles I experienced during my clinical rotations was that of patient advocate. On the first day of my gerontology clinical rotation in an assisted living facility, I met 98-year-old Mrs. K. She seemed happy to have someone spend time with her and told me all about her family and daily life.


One day, as I took away her breakfast tray, I noticed that she hadn't touched her scrambled eggs. When I asked her if she wanted me to leave the tray, she told me that she despised scrambled eggs, but got them on her tray anyway.


I asked Mrs. K if she'd ever told anyone. She said, "Yes, countless times, but nothing changed. So finally I just stopped bringing it up." Mrs. K was a permanent resident at a costly facility, and she couldn't even get a breakfast she liked. Where's the autonomy in that?


I told my clinical instructor and the charge nurse about the situation. The charge nurse said we could substitute the eggs with something else. But the following week when I went back to the facility what did I find? A pile of scrambled eggs!


Each week, I'd find no change in Mrs. K's breakfast menu. The charge nurse said her meal request had been passed along to the nurses and kitchen staff.


I, along with my instructor, asked to speak with the dietitian, but she was never on the unit on the same day I was there. So, I wouldn't take the tray into Mrs. K's room without removing the eggs.


I felt frustrated because no one seemed to be listening and, worse, no one seemed to care. I could only imagine how Mrs. K felt. I promised myself I'd solve this problem before my rotation was over.


The week before the final day of my rotation, the dietitian and I were on Mrs. K's unit at the same time. She sat at the computer and eliminated everything containing eggs from Mrs. K's menu and informed me that this was the first she'd heard about Mrs. K's preference. I was skeptical this would work, but on my final day of clinical, I brought Mrs. K her breakfast tray and there were no eggs on it.


Being Mrs. K's voice

This experience taught me a valuable lesson in patient advocacy. By taking a stand and changing something as simple as her breakfast, I helped Mrs. K feel more in control of her life. Patient advocacy also can avert potentially serious complications, such as a food allergy or an adverse medication reaction.


I learned that to be a true patient advocate, you have to take a few minutes out of your day getting to know your patients' likes, dislikes, how they're feeling, and how they'd like to feel.1,2


Speak up

Nursing students can be hesitant to speak up about situations that should be addressed. But, speaking up is our duty. There's no better feeling than advocating for your patient and seeing the sincere look of appreciation on his or her face.


I learned two powerful lessons: addressing concerns gets results, and you always need to be a voice for your patients, whether it's for their physical health or their breakfast.




1. Hanks RG. The medical-surgical nurse perspective of advocate role. Nurs Forum. 2010;45(2):97-107. [Context Link]


2. Ronch JL. Many ways to advocate. 2011. [Context Link]