Nurses as Immigrant Advocates: A Brief Overview

Mary Ellen Biggerstaff, DNP, MSN, RN, FNP; Taiyyeba Safri Skomra, JD

Disclosures

Online J Issues Nurs. 2020;25(2) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Nurses have both a professional and ethical responsibility to advocate for social justice and vulnerable populations. Immigrants are considered one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States and interact with nurses at all levels of the healthcare system. This article provides a broad overview of immigration and the immigration system in the United States and calls for nurses to practice individual advocacy for immigrant patients at the clinic. Included are practical ways that nurses can advocate for immigrant patients at the systems and state and federal levels.

Introduction

Social justice, or the belief that economic and social inequality affects health and should be addressed, is a concept at the core of nursing. There is a long tradition of nurses acting as advocates for vulnerable people within healthcare settings (Egenes, 2009). The American Nurses Association (ANA) and the International Council of Nurses' (ICN) codes of ethics mandate that all nurses work to advocate for social justice (ANA, 2015; ICN, 2012). Thus, nurses are expected to use these ethical principles in practical application in their professional roles.

Immigrants are considered one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States (U.S). (Derose, Bahney, & Lurie, 2009) This article will discuss immigrant vulnerability in the healthcare system and offer a framework to increase understanding about why these vulnerabilities exist. We will address ways that nurses can advocate on immigrants' behalf individually; within a hospital system or community; and at the federal level.

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