11 Patient Advocacy Examples in Nursing (Plus Types)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 20, 2022

Published May 17, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A nurse or patient care professional in blue scrubs looks at a patient in a hospital bed. The arm of another medical professional in blue scrubs is in the foreground.

Often, patients rely on nurse advocates to help them navigate the health care system. As a nurse, you can help ensure others hear the patient and that the patient receives proper care. Understanding how nurses can help patients assert their rights and secure their required treatment may help you improve your advocacy skills and strengthen patient relationships.

In this article, we discuss what patient advocacy is, including providing 11 patient advocacy examples, sharing the different types of advocates and listing a couple of case examples.

What is patient advocacy?

Patient advocacy is when an individual, such as a nurse, speaks, acts or behaves in a way that benefits their patient, who may not be able to support or promote their own needs or interests. Nurses advocating for patients may collaborate with decision-makers, like legal representatives or doctors, to propose medical solutions or help solve treatment challenges. There are several principles in the American Nurses Code of Ethics from the American Nurses Association that relate to patient advocacy, such as:

  • Respecting human dignity

  • Committing to the patient

  • Treating all patients equally

  • Protecting the patient's rights

  • Preventing undue suffering

Additionally, here are the four sequential stages of patient advocacy:

  1. Consider the patient's level of awareness, medical background and personal values, and then evaluate their needs.

  2. Let the patient choose their treatment options and help them identify their goals.

  3. Work with other individuals on the patient's health care team to set up an advocacy plan to meet the patient's goals.

  4. Assess the advocacy results, including the patient's, family's and team's satisfaction.

Related: Working as an Advocate: Description, How To and Tips

11 patient advocacy examples

Here are some different patient advocacy examples that nurses can provide:

1. Ensuring safety

Nurses ensure the patient's safety while at a health care facility. When it's time to discharge a patient, the nurse communicates with social workers or case managers to ensure the patient is safe at home. If the patient requires assistance after discharge or home health care, a nurse advocate may set it up for them before the patient goes home.

Related: Guide to Nursing Interventions (With Types and Examples)

2. Listening to concerns

When a patient feels vulnerable, the nurse gives the patient consideration and attention as they express their concerns or ask questions. For example, the nurse may stay in the patient's room while the doctor discusses treatment options or a diagnosis. The nurse can help the patient ask their questions, find answers and understand the medical terminology. Other examples may include explaining how the health care system works or explaining the patient's right to refuse a test or procedure.

Related: 20 Communication Techniques in Nursing To Improve Care

3. Educating patients

Nurses frequently educate their patients on a wide variety of topics. Providing their patients with knowledge about their condition, treatment plan and other medical information may help make a difference in the patient's life and give them confidence when asking questions. Some education topics can include:

  • How to manage a current condition

  • How to care for a chronic condition

  • How to improve the quality of daily life

  • How to feel better between treatments

  • How to take medication properly

Related: Effective Strategies for Educating Patients (Plus Benefits)

4. Protecting the patient's rights

When a nurse knows their patient's wishes and any information they've provided in legal documents regarding their care, they can help protect the patient's rights. For example, nurses can help the patient communicate their treatment decision to a challenging family member who might upset the patient or disagree with the patient's wishes. Alternatively, a nurse can speak with the family member privately about the patient's diagnosis.

Another example is helping the patient express their treatment goals to the doctor, social worker or other medical team members to ensure others hear the patient and respect their wishes.

5. Checking for errors

Mistakes can happen, but by double checking, nurses can catch, fix, flag or stop mistakes in the patient's records or treatment protocols. Sometimes there are oversights by members of the health team or physicians, such as conflicting orders or incorrect information. Nurses can prevent or stop these errors by being attentive to patients' documents and correcting mistakes they find.

6. Connecting the patient to resources

Nurses can help patients and their families connect with resources inside and outside the medical facility. Often, a hospital has resources to support a patient's well-being that you can share with the patient and their family. Additionally, local communities may have resources like transportation, financial assistance or caregiver support networks to support the patient and their loved ones when they leave the health care institution.

Related: What Is Patient-Centered Care? Definition and Benefits

7. Informing the health care team

Often, nurses have the most interaction with a patient, so they can be in a helpful position to explain the patient's ideas and concerns to other health care professionals or family members. Nurses can relay essential information and keep everyone informed throughout the patient's care. They can also follow through to make sure everyone maintains the patient's wishes.

8. Assisting with social and financial challenges

Nurses can inform their patients about social and financial assistance programs before discharging them. Providing these resources before the patient leaves the health care facility can help ensure the patient has access to affordable prescriptions and supplies. Additionally, it helps ensure the patients have the social resources to rely on if they experience challenges with their at-home care.

9. Modeling correct nursing care

Nurses model patient advocacy by exhibiting compassion and providing their patients with excellent care. Correct nursing care, like communication and awareness of patient needs, are all small things that add to a positive patient advocacy environment. Modeling this behavior can help patients feel more comfortable with you and trust you can help them.

Related: 16 Nursing Values and Why They're Important

10. Teaching patients to advocate for themselves

It's vital for nurses to teach patients how to advocate for themselves when the nurse might not be there to help them in the future. A nurse can provide several resources and techniques to help the patient gain confidence to support their own care if they can. Some ways a nurse may promote self-advocacy include:

  • Using a medical summary: Nurses can explain the importance of a current medical summary, show the patients medical summary examples and provide them with the information to include in their summary. The information they can include in the summaries is allergies, health conditions, medications and physicians.

  • Gaining health knowledge: Nurses can provide their patients with reliable medical resources to educate themselves about their diagnoses, procedures or medications.

  • Choosing new doctors wisely: Nurses can help their patients find trusted health professionals by recommending local doctors or other medical professionals who can help them find the right physician. They can also explain methods for evaluating a new doctor to ensure they're the right choice for the patient.

  • Fostering effective communication: Nurses can emphasize the importance of good communication between patients and doctors. Nurses can teach patients how to ask for help with communication challenges, like requesting an interpreter.

11. Advocating outside health care facilities

Nurses can advocate for patients outside of work. Several advocacy groups focus on various topics related to patient care. Many of these groups rely on nurses and other health care professionals to provide insight or raise awareness about medical challenges. There are also seminars, conferences and annual meetings nurses can attend to learn ways to improve their patient care skills.

Related: 10 Ways To Advocate for Patients

3 types of patient advocacy

There are several types of patient advocacy in nursing, including:

1. Medical facility advocacy

If other providers overlook a patient's needs or potential treatment options while the patient's at a medical facility, a nurse can act as a mediator between the patient and the doctor. For example, if a patient receives unsafe accommodations, an inaccurate diagnosis or unclear instructions, a nurse can alert the medical facility and the patient's doctor. The nurse can then communicate the challenges and help resolve the situation on the patient's behalf.

Related: Learn About Being a Patient Advocate

2. Legal system advocacy

If a patient's treatment or medication options face legal restrictions, a nurse can help advocate for the patient to obtain the medication or treatment. The nurse can provide resources and statements to potentially help the patient access better treatment options or payment solutions. Sometimes, this type of advocacy creates positive changes for an entire group of patients or changes an established medical process.

Related: How To Become a Victim Advocate

3. Family advocacy

Nurses can advocate for their patients' families. Nurses can extend their assistance to helping, representing or finding resources for these individuals. If a patient's loved one has a question regarding a diagnosis or treatment plan, the nurses can provide an answer or find other medical professionals or resources. Additionally, they can help mediate challenges between a patient and a family member if there's a disagreement regarding the type of medical treatment or medication to pursue.

Related: How To Become a Child Life Specialist

Case examples of patient advocacy

Here are some case examples highlighting patient advocacy:

Example 1: Emergency room patient

A man has been experiencing stomach pain for several weeks, but his primary physician didn't perform any tests on the man when he visited them. He ends up at the local hospital in the emergency room with acute abdominal pain. The nurse may advocate for this patient by:

  • Listening to the patient talk about the condition and responding with appropriate pain management

  • Helping patient relay relevant information to the doctor, who orders tests and a biopsy

  • Supporting the patient's request to be admitted to the hospital for further evaluation

  • Requesting medical records from the man's primary physician's office

  • Scheduling the patient a gastroenterology appointment with a hospital specialist

  • Creating a health care plan for the patient to follow upon discharge from the facility

Example 2: Anxious patient

A woman recently received a cancer diagnosis, and her provider refers her to an oncologist. The woman has never been in a hospital and is anxious about her first oncology appointment, where she can discuss an upcoming operation with the provider. The nurse can advocate for her during this visit by:

  • Considering and responding helpfully to the patient's concerns, putting her at ease

  • Helping the patient find reliable resources to learn about her diagnosis

  • Educating the patient on how to request and compile her medical records

  • Providing information about financial support options the hospital offers

  • Working with the doctor to create a pre-op, surgery and post-op treatment plan

  • Ensuring the patient understands the plans and answers her questions

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