Registered Nurses as Patient Advocates

Role of the Registered Nurse in Patient Advocacy

Patient advocacy is one of the primary responsibilities of a registered nurse. The nurse’s duty is to act in the interests of a patient. Nurses provide 24-hour care for patients. Thus their role as patient advocates is significant. Scholars identified three major constituents of patient advocacy. They are “developing humanistic relationships with patients to safeguard their interests and wellbeing; respecting and valuing patients’ freedom of self-determination and helping them throughout the decision-making process; sharing information and empowering patients to make decisions” (Choi, 2015, p. 53).

Thus, patient advocacy can be treated as a process that comprises certain “actions, behaviors, and practices” for maintaining and securing all patients’ rights, values, wellbeing, and best interests within the health care system (Choi, 2015, p. 53).

Nursing advocacy can be helpful for patients in various situations. For example, a professional nurse can assist a patient in acute conditions and help to understand the diagnosis, peculiarities of treatment, and prognosis. The nurse can also be an advocate for patients when it appears the necessity to respect their rights and choices. It is particularly important in situations involving ethical decisions such as physical restraint or the need for institutionalization.

As for nursing preparation to act as patient advocates, it is mainly theoretical during prelicensure education. Nurses learn the fundamentals of patient advocacy, including their goals, planning, implementation, and outcomes. However, only practical experience can make a nurse a good advocate. The case of every patient is unique, and a nurse should apply theoretical knowledge to practice to develop the best possible advocacy strategy to protect the interests of a certain patient. It is important for a nurse to be neutral and concerned about the patient’s values rather than personal beliefs.

Referring to Nursing Care Recipients

At different times, people who access healthcare services were referred to differently. They could be called users, clients, and patients (Saito, Zoboli, Schveitzer, & Maeda, 2013). From the position of professional relations, a person can be treated as a client, which means he or she is a “user or a service buyer” (Saito et al., 2013, p. 176). In its turn, the term “patient” involves a more emotional attitude, which is not right in the nurse-patient professional relations. However, the term “patient” is the most widely in healthcare practice (Saito et al., 2013).

I support the position that the term “patient” is the most suitable to treat a person who needs nursing care. First of all, its Latin origin in the word “patiens,” which derived from “patior,” which means “to suffer” underlines the need for help. Some researchers consider that this term provides implicitly “passive and hierarchically lower position” is compared to a professional, a doctor, or a nurse (Saito et al., 2013). I do not see any negative meaning here. When a person has a problem, he or she is looking for help that can be provided by healthcare professionals, doctors, or nurses. A patient is a person who patiently waits for health intervention.

This term involves more humanization and respect in the process of care. Moreover, it is one of the traditional ways to refer to a person who needs help because of some health problems. Although the term “client” is more modern and can be more suitable for the contemporary conditions when people have to pay for health care services, it does not imply humanization, which should be an integral part of the healthcare process.


Choi, P.P. (2015). Patient advocacy: The role of the nurseNursing Standard, 29(41), 52-58. Web.

Saito, D.Y.T., Zoboli, E.L., Schveitzer, M.C., & Maeda, S.T. (2013). User, client or patient? Which term is more frequently used by nursing students? Text Context Nursing, 22(1), 175-183. Web.

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