Patient Advocacy: The Nurse's Responsibility

Stephanie R. Tate, RN


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2005;5(2) 

I would like to comment on the editorial, "Nurses: The Perfect Patient Advocates," by Sandra M. Nettina.[1] Ms. Nettina talks about advocating for our patients because we, as dedicated nurses, are so well suited for it. We also do it because it's our job -- it's our first and foremost responsibility as registered nurses (RNs). It's addressed as a responsibility in the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics with Interpretive Statements,[2] and it's addressed in most state nurse practice acts.[3] To not advocate on behalf of a patient -- even if it means jumping the chain of command or getting right up in a nurse manager's, hospital administrator's, or healthcare provider's face -- is a deviation from standard of care.

Sadly, too many nurses have forgotten this, or have never learned it. They expect patients to advocate for themselves, or families to advocate for them. This is a "high horse" issue with me: I believe that no hospitalized patient should have to advocate for himself -- ever. Nor should any family member or significant other ever be expected to have to advocate on behalf of their hospitalized loved one. This is a nursing responsibility.

The role of RN as patient advocate is a passion of mine; as is the need for a safe staffing law in all 50 states (minimum RN-to-patient ratios), as has been enacted in California. I hope to make this a reality in Oregon as well, by getting the word out at the state legislature level and pushing for a similar bill. I hope nurses in other states are as passionate about the nurse advocate role and will work to make safe staffing laws a reality in all states.


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