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Specifically define the role of the registered nurse in patient advocacy. Describe situations in which nursing advocacy can assist patients within the healthcare environment. Defend why nurses are, or are not, adequately prepared, in prelicensure education, to act as patient advocates.
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Patients have many needs that are associated with being hospitalized. Often patients may not have the understanding, resources, or ability to ensure that they are receiving the best care. Additionally, when a patient comes to the hospital they often have many different dynamics that make up their lives (Butts & Rich, 2016). According to Jacksonville University (2017), nurses must advocate on behalf of their patients as is supported by the ANA code of ethics. Many times, a patient may be scared to ask a physician more details about their diagnosis. It is the responsibility of the nurse to ensure they can understand what is going on. One instance that comes to mind is related to last fall when I volunteered in Houston, Texas with the flood victims. Having been called to provide emergency care at a shelter that was housing 5000 people, I readily left and joined this amazing team. One night a gentleman came to the clinic complaining of chest pain. Initial indications showed the patient was most likely having a heart attack. The patient needed emergent treatment and transport to the hospital. However, the patient refused all care and said he could not leave. After the patient was gone, my charge nurse and I decided to follow him back to his cot. From a distance, we could see he had three dogs. We cautiously approached him and told him we were extremely concerned for this wellbeing. He looked at us and said to us, “See these three dogs, they are the only family I have. They are the only things that are valuable to me. If I leave and go to the hospital no one will care for them, and the animal shelter will take them and I’ll never get them back.” We could easily see his dilemma. We asked him if we could figure out a better option if he would go to the hospital. Ultimately, we found out that animal services would watch his dogs for 15 days, and that he would get them back without having to pay money or any hassle. He was able to go to ER for care. This is just one example. However, daily nurses must advocate for their patients. A few other examples are related to medication, code status, end of life care, family dynamics, appropriate, timely treatment, and the list goes on and on.
In my experience, nurses receive extensive treatment related to the subject of advocacy. However, it is possible that nurses lose sight of how to be true advocates due to personal biases. The nursing program I attended and this BSN program have both had strong support for nursing advocacy. There is always a chance for growth, and nurses should actively seek out ways to learn how to be better advocates for their patients.
The role of a registered nurse in patient advocacy includes helping patients make informed choices or decisions about their health. The nurses are tasked with the role of assisting patients in navigating the complex medical system, enable patients to made essential ethical choices and help in translating medical terms for patients (Hewitt, 2002). Since registered nurses have direct contact with patients, they are positioned to advocate for care services that are offered. Further, the role of the registered nurse in patient advocacy includes promoting patient equality, so respect for the patient’s worth, uniqueness, and dignity is enhanced. As a result, by successfully ensuring that the care needs of the patients have been advocated, the healing process will be promoted.
There are distinct situations that nursing advocacy can help patients within the care environment. One of the situations is when patients do not have understanding of medications or or therapies they are undergoing. A registered nurse needs to give patients a voice when a doctor is describing a treatment or a diagnosis so it enables them to ask questions, translate information about medical information, and ask a question about things that they do not understand (Bu et al., 2008). Further, patients experiencing chronic conditions can be helped through nursing advocacy, where patients are assisted when they are in such a care environment. They should be taught how they can improve their everyday quality of life through eating healthy.
Nurses are adequately prepared in pre-licensure education to enable them to act as patient advocates. In recent years, patient advocacy has been moved beyond a duty that is associated with a Registered Nurse but a specialty role in care institutions, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations (Seal, 2007). Nurses can now promote patient advocacy by supporting patient rights, advising them, helping them make the right care decision, and educate them about medical terms that a doctor tells them.
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The ANA Code of Ethics currently emphasizes the word “patient” instead of the word “client” in referring to nursing care recipients. Do you agree with this change? Why or why not?
Review the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements found in Appendix B of your Butts text.
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The ANA Code of Ethics prefers medical professionals use the word “patient” instead of the word “client” when referring to those who are receiving care, and is something I agree with. According to Butts (2016), the term “patient” has ancient roots that correlate with suffering, while the “root of client implies one who listens, leans upon, or follows another” (Butts, 2016, p. 461). When patients come into the clinic or hospital, they are typically ill which could be considered to fall under suffering. The term “patient” feels more personal, caring, and interconnected. On the other hand, the term “client” feels more unsentimental and businesslike, which is not ideal when caring for individuals who are ill and at their most vulnerable. As a patient, we would want the individual taking care of us to be compassionate and feel as though they truly care about your well-being.
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Based on the text, the word patient has its roots derived in the term of “suffering” and has the connotation and association with an individual who receives treatment whereas the word “client” suggests a more transactional connotation often associated with consultation or business. The word “client” involves an individual who listens and follows another (Butts, 2015).
Personally, I agree with this change and retention of the term “patient” and the understanding that patients are considered to be consumers of health care. The word “client” has a more transactional sense to me and that it feels less personable as compared to a “patient”. Nursing provides the service of caring and preservation of human dignity therefore the term “client” makes a person seem like a commodity versus as a human being. Referring to a patient involves a deeper connection in that a person relies on the nurse for their care and well-being. A patient is entrusting his/her health to a health care professional to guarantee that they are kept safe.
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