1. Lockhart, Lisa MHA, MSN, RN, NE-BC

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Q: What does advocacy mean to you?

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A: Nurses most often think of advocacy as fighting for patients' rights. This may bring to mind stern, even aggressive, conversations with providers, families, service lines, or administration in an attempt to ensure that your patient gets the care he or she deserves. The American Nurses Association (ANA) addresses advocacy and views this function as a nurse's responsibility to patient care. On a large scale, the ANA promotes advocacy through national patient safety and outcomes improvement initiatives, such as Safe Staffing Saves Lives and Handle with Care. Further, the ANA discusses advocacy in its Code of Ethics for Nurses, which defines the core values of advocacy as preserving human dignity, patient equality, and freedom from suffering.


Human dignity comes in many forms, such as provision of personal privacy, maintaining Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act guidelines, honoring last wishes, being respectful of religious beliefs and cultural values, being mindful and aware of your patient's surroundings, and enforcing respectful behavioral expectations from all who enter the care area. Patient equality also takes various forms, such as ensuring that all patients are treated fairly and receive the same quality and respectful care regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or ability to pay. Freedom from suffering encompasses numerous avenues as well, such as treatment of pain, use of hospice and palliative care when appropriate, and not denying pain medication to an addicted patient just because they're a substance abuser. We must explore all avenues of providing comfort and pain relief, including alternative therapies and service lines when appropriate.


What does this mean for those of us at the point of care? Do you need to be involved in the legislative process, join the ethics committee, or participate in a formal manner to truly be an advocate? No! Advocating for our patients is done every time we step into our professional role as nurses. Each time you contribute to meeting the National Patient Safety Goals, work to prevent medication errors with second verification, perform medication reconciliation, and carry out patient identification, you're advocating for your patients. Making provisions for safe care, looking to prevent healthcare errors, reporting errors when they occur, and utilizing a just culture to address process improvement needs-this is advocacy at its core.


Everything you do to advance your patients' health, your colleagues, the organization, and healthcare as a profession is advocacy. Ensuring the safety of your patients and their families, yourself, and your coworkers meets this core standard-every day.




American Nurses Association. Advocacy.


University Alliance. Nurses advocating for patients.


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