Nurse As Patient Advocate
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Many claim that a primary nursing role is to be the patient's advocate. This role however, is not one on which all agree. For instance, those who raise objections to the nurse in this role cite that a nurse cannot "fully acknowledge" a patient's right to self-determination while at the same time claiming to be their advocate. Additionally, some doubt the validity of automatically assuming the nurse should serve as the advocate when many other professionals treat the patient as well.
The idea of nurses as patient advocates emerged as part of the push for professionalization of the nursing profession. In the role of advocate, the nurse should:
- Ensure that the patient has enough information to exercise autonomy,
- Ensure their legal and moral rights are respected, and
- Help ensure that health care resources allow appropriate quality and quantity of care
Nurses establish themselves as a patient advocate by insuring the patient that he or she has a say in health care decisions. By doing this, the nurse helps to create the bond of trust essential to quality care. The problem however, is that the patient's wishes may inflict harm. When the nurse knows that the patient's health decision will not be in the patient's best interest, the nurse is caught between his or her duty of care and his or her role as an advocate.In cases where the advocate role interferes with the nurse's duty of care, the nurse must notify higher authorities in the hospital setting. While the nurse takes on the role of advocate to empower the patient, the nurse still must keep in mind that the patient does not have medical training and therefore may not be in the best position to make the right choices. It is for this reason the nurse assuming the advocate role must ensure the patient has the needed amount of information to make the best decision possible.
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