A Patient’s Voice in the Health Care System
The nurse advocate is a relatively new career choice although almost all nurses involved in patient care, have been advocates for their patients in some manner. The nurse advocate however devotes their time to representing the patient’s wishes to doctors or family, explaining the often-complex terminology that goes with a doctor visit. While nurses have always been a source of support for families dealing with serious illnesses, the nurse advocate’s career revolves around this support role and helping seriously ill patients and families.
Nurse Advocate Job Description & Scope of Practice
The nurse advocate will often spend time helping a family and patient understand what may have been said in a doctor’s visit. Sometimes the circumstances are so unfamiliar or the patient is trying to come to terms with a life threatening diagnosis. In such situations, an advocate fills the role of liasing between the patient and the healthcare providers; at a time when the patient can emotionally accept the important information about their medical condition..
The advocate nurse may also present the wishes of the patient to doctors or even family members. A nurse filling the role of a nurse advocate may be able to assist the patient by explaining treatment options spending the time the patient needs to understand their choices and make informed decisions about their course of treatment.
A nurse advocate may be able to help the patient with insurance paperwork. The job description of a nurse advocate is vague because they are the patient’s voice at times when a patient or family may feel powerless or lost. Their role is what the family and patient requires and may change over the course of the patient’s illness. The most important part of the advocacy job for a nurse is to learn the patient’s wishes and then identify the needs of the patient and family.
How to Become a Nurse Advocate
A nurse advocate relies upon their education as well as their empathy to provide advocacy services to patients. Working as an advocate as well as a nursing professional the nurse does not make personal judgments, but instead identifies patient needs and attempts to advocate for the patient as well as the family. This can be particularly difficult when the patient is making decisions such as when to discontinue treatments and enter hospice treatment. The nurse who wants to become a nurse advocate should be an RN. There RN who plans on a career in patient advocacy may also complete a RN patient advocacy program by Healthcare Liaison Inc or become a Registered Nurse Patient Advocate through a course of study by iRNPA.
Nurse Advocate Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs
● A 2 or 4 Year Degree from an accredited nursing program is required to become an RN nurse advocate.
● Pass the NCLEX-RN (the national licensing exam) and earn an RN license.
● Although certification is not required to become a nurse advocate, certification programs offer skills the nurse may need to become an efficient independent patient advocate. Some of the areas touched upon include, patient rights in decision making, cross cultural issues, ethics and business practices for the patient advocate. Nurse advocates cannot currently obtain certification through any nursing association. However, nurse advocates may hold certifications for other fields such as pediatric care, critical care or long-term care. If their work as a nurse advocate involves patients in these types of settings, certification may help nurse advocates stand out among other job applicants. Nurse advocates do not have a particular association, but they can belong to other associations such as the American Nurses Association (ANA).
Nurse Advocate Salary and Career Outlook
The nursing field is predicted to experience a very good rate of job growth over the next 8 years with an increase in jobs predicted at the rate of 21 – 23%. The nurse advocate who is employed by a hospital, clinic or community health center makes around $62,000 per year on average.