1. Witt, Catherine L.

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This month we are introducing NANN Pages as a regular feature in Advances in Neonatal Care. This is a way to keep our members up to date on the activities of our professional organization, the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN). Advances in Neonatal Care is the official journal of NANN. As the official journal, we provide a service to association members by providing educational opportunities, including continuing education credits, a vehicle to disseminate research findings to our members at the bedside, and to debate issues that are important to the profession of neonatal nurses. Although we are the association's journal, the association does not direct journal content. There are separate boards for the association and the journal. Publication decisions are made by the journal editorial staff based on review by peers and experts in the field.

Figure. Catherine L.... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Catherine L. Witt

As you read the association news, you will notice that one of the areas NANN is focused on is advocacy. Webster's defines an advocate as "one that pleads the cause of another, or one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal."1 As nurses, we often think of ourselves as advocates for our patients. In fact, patient advocacy is fundamental to the nurse/patient relationship.2 It is our job to make sure that infants in our care receive the best care and treatment possible. This does not mean just speaking up when we think our patients and families need something. It means maintaining competence in our field through ongoing education and training. It means conducting or evaluating research to develop new knowledge and techniques to improve patient care. It means being fiscally responsible in our use of time and supplies. It means developing and maintaining a collegial relationship with all members of the healthcare team. It means acting in an ethical way, maintaining safety, policing our profession, and speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves.2,3


All of these things are important as individual nurses. Although we cannot ignore our personal responsibility in being a patient's advocate, we cannot do all of it alone. That is why professional associations are important. Professional organizations can provide education through conferences, journals, and Web-based learning. The professional association sets standards for specialty nursing care. Standards are created for education of advanced practice nurses. The association provides materials for creating policies and procedures and for orienting new nursing staff. The professional association supports research and dissemination of research to the bedside through research symposiums, poster and podium presentations at our national meeting, and publication of research through the journal.


When we think of professional organizations and advocacy, we often think of a political agenda, which includes speaking out on issues that are important to our patients and to our profession as a whole. This is an important part of being a nursing advocate. There are many issues that we as a profession have an obligation to speak about. There are issues affecting babies and families. We must provide patient and public education about health issues such as infant safety, breastfeeding, and premature birth. There are issues that impact our advanced practice nurses, including education requirements, practice restrictions, and certification. There are healthcare economic issues that will affect nurses as a profession and individuals. Our professional organizations are in a position to address these issues and be a bigger voice than we can be as individuals.4 To do this, our associations need members, not just the members who pay dues every year, but also the members who are active and involved. Involvement in a professional organization provides an opportunity to develop leadership skills that will enable you as an individual to be a better advocate for your patient and your profession.


Being an advocate for our patients includes being involved in our professional organization. We have a collective responsibility as a profession, both as individuals and as associations to speak for our patients and our profession. Are you an active participant in patient and professional advocacy? If not, there is no time like the present to start.




1. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc; 2003. [Context Link]


2. Reinhard SC, Grossman J, Piren K. Advocacy and the advanced practice nurse. In: Joel LA, ed. Advanced Practice Nursing: Essentials for Role Development. Philadelphia, PA: FA Davis; 2004:280-300. [Context Link]


3. American Nurses Association. Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements. Washington, DC: American Nurses Association; 2001. [Context Link]


4. Welchman J, Griener GG. Patient advocacy and professional associations: individual and collective responsibilities. Nurs Ethics. 2005;12:296-304. [Context Link]