Nurse Advocate Career Overview
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Nurse advocates — often called patient advocates — primarily guide patients as they navigate the healthcare system. They often liaise between patients and physicians, advocating on behalf of patients to find suitable treatments.
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Nurse Advocate Career in Brief
The American healthcare system can seem confusing and overwhelming, especially to patients already struggling with serious illnesses. Nurse advocates help their patients understand this complex system, and they work as a liaison between patients and their healthcare team. While all nurses advocate for their patients, nurses who take on a patient advocacy role share these specific responsibilities:
- Educate patients on their illness and potential treatments so they can make informed decisions
- Use their understanding of nursing law and ethics to advocate on behalf of the patient
- Address any cultural or religious needs of the patient
- Help patients understand their medical bills; communicate with insurance companies to make sure patients are billed accurately
- Communication and listening skills
- Ability to speak up confidently to people in leadership
- Negotiating skills
- Advanced knowledge of nursing law and ethics
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Where Do Nurse Advocates Work?
Nurse advocate jobs can be found in the same settings as other nurse jobs: hospitals, doctors' clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, outpatient care centers, and other healthcare facilities. Advocates may also work at correctional facilities or with the terminally ill, helping them seek treatment or make decisions about goals of care and death with dignity. Below is a list of common workplace settings and nurse advocate duties.
Nurse advocates speak as a liaison among physicians, families, and patients regarding treatment, educate patients on their illness, and help patients understand their medical bills.
Long-term Care Centers
Nurse advocates can help people with terminal illnesses or the elderly make end-of-life care decisions.
Outpatient Care Centers
Nurse advocates typically explain or clarify patients' rights, educate patients about their conditions, handle complaints, and advance patients' interests to insurance providers.
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Why Become a Nurse Advocate?
As with any job, it is vital to consider the pros and cons of a certain career path before committing to it. Check out the advantages and disadvantages below.
Advantages to Becoming a Nurse Advocate
Many nurse advocates feel they are making a tangible difference in patients' lives, standing up for their rights and concerns.
Nurse advocates develop a unique skill set with an advanced knowledge of nursing law and ethics, which can help in other areas.
Nurse advocates develop meaningful relationships with patients and their families.
There is room for career growth as advocates can potentially progress to become nurse attorneys.
Disadvantages to Becoming a Nurse Advocate
How to Become a Nurse Advocate
Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive registered nurse (RN) licensure.
Consider completing patient advocacy training.
Become a board certified patient advocate.
How Much Do Nurse Advocates Make?
On average, nurse advocates earn an annual salary of $72,240. That data from PayScale is on par with the median salary for RNs — about $73,300 in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Actual salaries can vary considerably based on location, experience, employer, and education level. PayScale data also shows that, when it comes to total yearly earnings, nurse advocate salaries range from $41,000-$94,000.
Nurses in general can look forward to a positive job outlook. The BLS projects that the number of nurses could increase by 7% from 2019 to 2029, an increase of about 222,000 positions within that decade.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the nurse's role in patient advocacy?
Patients have the right to make their own decisions about their health, but it can sometimes seem difficult when physicians and families put forward their own opinions. Nurses listen to and advocate for their patients in this clamor of advice and opinions. Nurse advocates also facilitate an open dialogue with patients, educating them about their condition and treatment options.
What does it mean to advocate for patients?
Nurses often build closer relationships with their patients than physicians do; they care for them and administer medications day after day. This means that they have a better understanding of patients, their values, religious beliefs, cultural considerations, and what treatments might best suit their conditions — not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. Therefore, they can represent their patients' best interests when determining treatments and medications.
How do nurse advocates advance patients' interests?
Nurse advocates may speak on behalf of patients to the physician or other healthcare team members. They can also serve as a liaison between patients and their families, especially when their interests clash. Nurse advocates often promote policies in local, state, and federal government, arguing for laws that best serve patients.
What are the requirements to become a nurse advocate?
First, nurse advocates must earn a degree in nursing and obtain RN licensure. While all nurses should technically work as advocates for their patients, nurse advocates often receive more professional training by earning an additional certification such as the Board Certified Patient Advocate credential and completing a program in patient advocacy.
Resources for Nurse Advocates
The Alliance of Professional Health AdvocatesThe APHA provides support to private, independent patient advocates. The alliance offers legal services and professional development for nurses in the field. Members can take advantage of networking opportunities, conferences, and other events or resources. The group also runs the APHA Academy which trains nurses on how to start their own practices as patient advocates.
Nurse Advocacy AssociationThis association is not just for nurses who advocate on behalf of patients, but also those who advocate for the nursing industry in general. The group takes positions on several healthcare issues, like management and the national nursing shortage, and it campaigns for those policies. Members can participate through volunteer work, research projects, or joining their local chapters.
National Patient Advocate FoundationThis foundation takes advocacy for patients to the policy level, with members working locally, regionally, and nationally. Healthcare professionals of all types can join, advocating for issues like improving healthcare access in rural communities and reducing the cost of care for patients. Members can also learn about skilled communications through regular workshops.
RN Patient AdvocatesPatients can contact this group of RNs for guidance or advocacy within the healthcare system. Nurses can join and provide services such as reviewing medical records, providing health and wellness training, and educating patients on their treatment options.
Anna-Lise Krippaehne, DNP, FNP-BC
Anna-Lise Krippaehne is a board-certified family nurse practitioner at Oregon Health & Science University's Family Practice Department in Portland, where she practices with a distinct interest in preventative care and health promotion. She earned her BSN and DNP from the University of Portland.
Krippaehne is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.
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