This Blog was Originally Published on Calling All Nurses – YES! Patient advocacy does in fact matter in nursing school. Unfortunately, many nursing programs wait to introduce the concept of patient advocacy until either the third or fourth semesters of their program. As a result, it has been observed that most nursing students do not have an opportunity to fully understand the implications of patient advocacy before being faced with its’ challenges once they enter into the nursing workforce.
Here are 3 key strategies that nursing students can utilize to enhance their ability to be an effective patient advocate:
- Invest the patient’s response to the care and treatments being provided – In a hurried environment where nursing staff are being challenged to carry out many tasks at once, it can be difficult to recognize that the patient – or even their family member(s) – may be experiencing dissatisfaction, frustration, or confusion regarding their care. It is very important to be aware of these subtle cues and to inquire within. Ask your patients on regular intervals: “How are you handling everything? Do you have any questions that I can work on getting answered for you? Is there anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable or better informed?” By investing in your patient’s response, and helping them clarify things along the way, you are sure to gain your patient’s trust and enhance their overall experience.
- Maintain 100% follow through with all verbal contracts and agreements – It is crucial for you to always demonstrate excellent follow through with your patients and their family members. It is so easy to get caught up in the tasks of nursing, but it will prevent misunderstandings, and drastically improve your working relationship with your patients if you prove to them that you are a person of your word. If for some reason you foresee that you cannot uphold a previous agreement, then it becomes a priority to communicate the change in plan as soon as possible to maintain excellent communication and trust. Simply put, if you say you will be back in 30 minutes to take another set of vital signs, then you should be back in 30 minutes – your patients will be watching the clock!
- Fight for your patient’s right to privacy at all costs – Upholding the highest standards of patient privacy can be one of the toughest components of patient advocacy. In hospital settings where patients often share rooms, and are simply separated by a thin sheet of fabric, it becomes challenging to keep private conversations private. In these cases, you may consider removing the patient to a private area to discuss sensitive information. You should include all hospital staff in being accountable for maintaining high standards of patient privacy as well. It’s okay to ask a physician to lower their voice during dictations, or to enforce knocking before entering a patient’s room.
By practicing these easy advocacy strategies, you will assure your patients that you are taking their best interest into consideration.