Top 4 Challenges of Being a Patient Advocate
By Brook Jillings, contributor
As the most consistent point of contact at a medical facility, a nurse has the responsibility of providing medical treatment and acting as a patient advocate.
Nurses spend more one-on-one time with patients than any other medical professional, making them the most reasonable option to advocate for patient care. Patient advocate nursing is an important part of medical care, but it isn't always easy. Here are the top four challenges of being a patient advocate.
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Patient Advocate Nursing: 4 Challenges for Today's Professionals
1. Challenging a doctor's authority
Despite the enormous level of personal care nurses provide, patients typically view doctors as the ultimate authority on medical decisions. For nurses, stepping up as a patient advocate to point out potential issues with a doctor's orders can be difficult and could affect later interactions.
"Advocating should only be done in certain situations," says Eddie Chu, owner of Qualicare Ottawa. "For example, when the patient cannot or is unwilling to speak for themselves, for instance, with their doctor." Chu goes on to explain that nurses must realize when their patients are in need of support and offer assistance.
2. Challenging the wishes of family members
As a patient advocate, your responsibilities include supporting the wishes of your patient. Sometimes, the patient's preferences go against the wishes of their family members. In this case, the patient's wants are still the top priority.
"Having family members disagree is one of the harder aspects of being a patient advocate," says Chu. He recommends explaining the benefits of the decision to the family and highlighting that it's what the patient wants.
3. Supply and demand
Ideally, everyone should have a nurse who acts as their patient advocate while receiving medical care, but the high number of patients a nurse must care for makes it difficult to advocate effectively. Patient advocate nursing requires time to communicate with patients to fully understand their conditions, ensure they know their treatment options and find out their wishes.
With many nurses being overworked to keep up with increasing demand, it's difficult to be thorough with each patient.
4. Ethical dilemmas
To be a patient advocate, nurses must expect certain ethical dilemmas.
For example, sometimes the treatment used to heal a patient comes with painful side effects. It can be difficult for nurses to reconcile the need for treatment with their desire to keep patients comfortable. Ethical dilemmas can also arise when nurses are blocked from providing the care their patients need or when they are unable to dedicate their full attention to those who need them most.
Patient advocacy nursing is a necessary service that helps patients understand what is happening to them and maintain some control over their situation. Being a patient advocate is rewarding, but nurses should prepare themselves for the challenges that come with it.