In this inspiring and timely article, Intensive Care Nurse Mona discusses the importance of advocacy and political participation as a nurse, what you can do to get involved, and why it matters not just for nurses, but patients as well.
Nursing is a profession that is deeply rooted in providing patient care and improving healthcare outcomes. However, nurses are also becoming more political, advocating for their patients and their profession at the highest levels of government. This has been exemplified by the Royal College of Nursing strike in 2022 and the appointment of Maria Caulfield as a Member of Parliament.
In June 2022, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) went on strike for the first time in its 104-year history. The strike was a response to a government proposal to cap nurses' pay at 1% in the face of rising inflation, despite the heroic work that nurses had done during the COVID-19 pandemic. The strike was widely supported by nurses and the public alike, with many recognising the importance of valuing and investing in the nursing profession.
Nursing and politics have been closely intertwined since the profession's earliest days. Nurses have always had to advocate for themselves, their patients, and their profession to ensure that the best care is provided to all.
In recent years nurses have become even more involved in politics, as they have increasingly recognized the importance of advocating for their profession and their patients. In this article, we will discuss why nurses should be more politically active and the importance of advocacy in nursing.
What Is Advocacy?
Advocacy is the act of speaking on behalf of others to promote their interests, rights, and well-being. In the context of nursing, advocacy is about speaking up for patients, providing support and information, and helping patients to make informed decisions about their healthcare.
Nurses are often the first point of contact for patients, and they are in a unique position to advocate for their patients. By understanding their patients’ perspectives, needs, and wants, nurses can work with patients to identify potential obstacles that may prevent them from getting the care they need.
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Why Is Advocacy Important For Nurses?
Advocacy is an essential component of nursing practice. Nurses are responsible for ensuring that patients receive the best possible care, and this requires them to be advocates for their patients.
Advocacy helps nurses to:
• Promote Patient-Centred Care: By advocating for their patients, nurses can help to ensure that the care they receive is focused on their individual needs and preferences.
• Ensure Patient Safety: Nurses are responsible for identifying and reporting any potential risks or hazards to their patients and advocating for measures to prevent harm.
• Promote Patient Autonomy: Advocacy helps to empower patients to make informed decisions about their healthcare, based on their personalised values and preferences. It also enables them to participate in decision-making processes with their medical providers.
In addition, advocacy encourages nurses to remain informed on current clinical guidelines, research evidence, and policy changes affecting healthcare. This allows them to provide more evidence-based care for their patients.
Moreover, by actively participating in policy debates related to nursing and healthcare, nurses can influence decisions made by government leaders and health system administrators. This gives them a greater opportunity to effect positive change within the system.
Numerous studies have found that nurses who actively participate in advocacy activities have greater job satisfaction and a deeper commitment to their profession (McKoy, 2018; Good et al., 2017). Furthermore, the literature has shown that nursing advocacy can lead to improved patient outcomes (McGinnis et al., 2019).
By advocating for their patients and participating in health policy debates, nurses can make an invaluable contribution to the healthcare system. As the nursing literature demonstrates, advocating for patients is an essential component of nursing practice that can lead to improved patient outcomes and job satisfaction. Nurses must be encouraged to take a proactive role in influencing the policies that impact their profession and the care they provide.
Nurses play a critical role in the healthcare system, and their involvement in politics and advocacy is essential in shaping policies that benefit patient care… it is a core component of nursing practice, and nurses have a unique perspective on healthcare and patient care that should be heard in policy discussions.
How Can Nurses Get Involved In Advocacy?
Nurses have a unique perspective on healthcare and patient care that should be heard in policy discussions. Advocacy is a core component of nursing practice, and there are many ways nurses can get involved in advocacy.
Here are some practical ways that nurses can become more politically active and get involved in advocacy:
• Participating In Action With Your Trade Union: The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), provides opportunities for nurses to get involved in advocacy and to influence policies that impact patient care. By joining a trade union, you can connect with like-minded professionals and stay informed about issues affecting healthcare.
• Engage With Policymakers: Nurses can engage with policymakers at local and national levels by attending meetings and participating in roundtable discussions. By sharing their insights and expertise on issues affecting patient care, nurses can help to shape healthcare policies and ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
• Speak Out On Social Media: Social media provides a powerful platform for nurses to advocate for their patients and raise awareness about issues affecting patient care. By sharing stories, statistics, and personal experiences on social media, nurses can help to educate the public about healthcare issues and mobilise support for policy change.
• Speak To Your Elected Representatives: Contacting your elected representatives is one of the most effective methods of advocating for better healthcare legislation and policies. Nurses can share their concerns with their elected representatives and urge them to act on healthcare issues.
• Keep Up To Date With Current Legislation: Nurses need to keep up to date on new healthcare initiatives and stay informed about legislative debates so they can best determine how to take action. This could involve attending workshops or conferences related to health policy, getting informed about current laws and initiatives, or joining organisations dedicated to advocating for better health outcomes.
• Utilise Evidence-Based Practice Resources: Evidence-based practice involves using the best available evidence to inform healthcare decision-making, and it's an essential tool for nurses who want to advocate for evidence-based policies that improve patient outcomes. By using evidence-based practice resources, nurses can ensure that their advocacy efforts are informed by the best available data and research.
Nurses play a critical role in the healthcare system, and their involvement in politics and advocacy is essential in shaping policies that benefit patient care. The RCN strike in 2022 and Maria Caulfield's appointment as a nurse MP are examples of nurses' increasing involvement in politics in the UK. Advocacy is a core component of nursing practice, and nurses have a unique perspective on healthcare and patient care that should be heard in policy discussions.
Nurses can get involved in advocacy in many ways, from participating in political campaigns to engaging with policymakers and speaking out on social media. By becoming more politically active, nurses can help to ensure that patients receive the best possible care and that their voices are heard in policy discussions.
Nurses need to make sure they are up to date on issues affecting healthcare so they can participate effectively in political debates. This could involve attending workshops or conferences related to health policy, getting informed about current laws and initiatives, or joining organisations dedicated to advocating for better health outcomes.
It also means being willing to speak up when needed, whether it’s at an official meeting, via email, or other forms of communication. With an increased presence in the political arena, nurses will be better equipped to advocate for improved patient outcomes, safety standards, and better work conditions for all medical personnel.
The importance of advocating for patient needs should never be underestimated, and by getting involved in the political sphere, nurses can have a powerful impact on changing health policy for the better.
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Good, M. C., Cino, K., & Fino, R. (2017). Political Advocacy: A Pathway To Leadership In Nursing. Nursing Forum, 52(2), 126-131.
McKoy, D. L. (2018). Advocacy As A Key Component Of Nursing Practice: Past, Present, And Future. Nursing Clinics, 53(1), 9-16.
McGinnis, S. L., Brush, B. L., Moore, J., & Kilstoff, K. (2019). The Impact Of Nurse Advocacy On Patient Outcomes: A Review Of Systematic Reviews. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 28(11-12), 2045-2059.