Being in a hospital or any other clinical setting is difficult for patients. At best it can be a bewildering environment. At worst they are feeling ill, in pain, frightened and vulnerable. While nothing can make such an experience easy, it can be made easier, and nurses are uniquely placed to help make that happen. They are often the ones who are most in contact with the patients and their families. Through acting as a patient advocate, they can help tailor treatment to the individual patient’s needs and improve their emotional and mental well-being, helping to improve the outcome.
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Patient advocacy gives patients a say in their treatment instead of them becoming passive recipients. It also ensures they are kept informed of changes in their condition and the implications for their treatment plan. This can help give patients a greater sense of control in a difficult time, and by knowing what is happening, their stress and anxiety can be reduced. A patient advocate acts as an ally and is a role that has traditionally been held by family members. However, nurses are uniquely placed to take on this role, having the regular contact that allows them to get to know the patient, combined with a high level of medical knowledge.
The holistic approach
Nurses usually take a holistic approach to their patients which involves treating the patient as a whole rather than simply as a set of symptoms. This includes being aware of the implications of aspects of the patient including their history, culture and beliefs. It can be difficult for patients to speak up when in a medical facility, but as patient advocates, nurses can make sure physicians and other medical professionals are aware of any cultural or social implications.
Nurses today learn a holistic approach in their training, and this continues through any additional training nurses take to advance their careers. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a popular choice, opening up many different career options. One might wonder what can you do with a master’s in nursing? A good place to find out is at Cleveland State University. Their online MSN degrees include different pathways, so no matter one’s career ambitions, there is a course they can study without putting their personal and professional life on hold.
Communicating with doctors
Medical speech can often seem like a foreign language to patients, and with physicians needing to update their patients on a busy round, there may be limited time for effective communication. Nurses can help facilitate the conversation by explaining unfamiliar terms to the patient or helping the patient word their questions. At a time when patients are feeling vulnerable, it can be difficult for them to assert themselves to get the answers they need. But nurses can do this on their behalf.
Updates from the doctor can be a lot to take in, meaning patients do not necessarily absorb all the information at the time. If a nurse has been present, they can help clarify it to the patient and either answer any further questions that the patient has or help them get the answers from elsewhere.
Patient education gives patients a role in their own treatment and nurses are often the ones best placed to do this. The type of education involved might be learning how to manage the treatment of a chronic condition or finding the best way to take medication between hospital visits or after discharge. They might also give more general advice that is not directly related to their condition, but that will help improve their general health, and through this, improve their condition.
When patients are unwell, it can be hard for them to stand up for their own rights, and as a patient advocate, a nurse can do this for them. Through working closely with the patient, they will get to know their wishes and can help communicate them to others. This might be with other medical staff, but also family members who may have an opinion on a particular treatment that goes against what the patient wants.
Even the best medical professionals can make a mistake, but as most patients do not have extensive medical knowledge, they may not recognize if a mistake has been made or is about to be made. Nurses can provide an expert pair of eyes when treatment is taking place and can alert staff to any issues. They can also help keep the patient safe when being discharged by making sure any follow-up, outpatient care or ongoing support is in place.
Access to resources
Being unwell or injured can cause a range of other problems such as financial issues or impact on other family members. When well, it is easy not to think about this, but this means that it is more of a shock when a patient does become unwell and has no idea what support is available. Nurses can help put the patient in touch with organizations that can support them, help with transport if the patient is going to need to make regular journeys for medical treatment, suggest groups that can support children with an ill or disabled parent or facilitate access to financial assistance if a long-term condition is going to impact on the patient’s ability to earn a living. When a patient is being discharged, the nurse may be able to put them in touch with relevant groups, providing access to a wealth of information on the ongoing management of their condition.
As patient advocate, nurses help improve outcomes for patients. By looking out for errors, they can prevent problems from occurring, and through education and resources they help the patients manage their condition, reducing the need for further treatment. By helping the patient communicate effectively with medical professionals and other family members, they help them feel more in control, something that can provide an enormous boost to their mental and emotional well-being. Being ill or injured is never easy, but with good patient advocacy, it can be made easier.