Nursing is a noble, rewarding, and indispensable profession in the healthcare industry. In 2020, when the world battled with the pandemic, these professionals were on the front lines, prioritizing their work over their personal lives. They also sacrificed their safety to ensure patients received the best care possible.
Aside from prioritizing patient care over personal lives, nurses encounter various obstacles that affect their efficacy. These include inadequate resources, heavy workloads, and limited opportunities for professional development. This is where nursing advocacy comes in. It provides pride in the profession and empowers nurses to take more professional development courses.
One of these courses could be to qualify as a family nurse practitioner, which you can study online. Carson-Newman University allows you to earn an FNP certificate online within two years. This course is designed for nurses with a master’s in nursing, with experienced NPs sharing their knowledge and experience in navigating family nursing and creating a good career path for themselves. Nursing education is essential to the growth and development of nurses, and this article will discuss 12 ways nursing advocacy and education help nurses.
12 important reasons for ongoing advocacy and education
Nursing advocacy empowers nurses, enhances patient care, and fosters a positive work environment in the following ways:
- Enhances knowledge and abilities
Nurses need continuous education in today’s evolving healthcare environment as it keeps them informed. It helps them understand medical advancements, evidence-based practices, and technological innovations that could improve patient care. For instance, immunotherapy advancements have revolutionized cancer treatment, and the rise of telemedicine has altered the interaction between healthcare professionals and patients. By participating in continuous education, nurses gain the knowledge necessary to tackle these changes and provide optimal care.
Evidence-based practice is another crucial area nurses must rely on for continuous skill development. This entails incorporating the best available research in clinical expertise with patient preferences and experiences to make informed decisions about patient care. For example, when new research arises on the most effective ways to prevent clinic-acquired infections, nurses must remain informed and adjust their practices accordingly. This helps tackle the challenges without complicated processes. It is why nurses are always encouraged to read medical journals in their free time.
- Improves desire for professional development
Nursing advocacy and continuous education support professional development. This is advantageous for career nurses as it broadens their knowledge base, leans on their abilities for efficiency, and enables them to remain competitive in the ever-changing job market. Obtaining advanced degrees such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is one method to achieve this goal. These advanced roles frequently come with increased autonomy, responsibility, and monetary compensation, contributing to professional development and fulfillment.
Aside from this, professional development enables nurses to acquire leadership skills applicable in the workplace. For example, nurses who participate in leadership training programs or obtain certifications in nursing administration can assume administrative positions such as charge nurse, nurse manager, and director of nursing. These factors enable nurses to have a greater influence on patient care and organizational outcomes.
Opportunities for continuous learning also enable nurses to specialize in practice areas such as oncology, pediatrics, and critical care. By pursuing specialized certifications or education, nurses can become specialists and work to relieve work-related health challenges, for example. This contributes to their professional development and makes them more valuable to their organizations.
- Improves advocacy for better working conditions
Every nurse requires a supportive workplace. Even though they were aware of the severe consequences for the patient population, many nurses in the US declared walkouts and strike actions. The truth is that it is impossible to perform under stress, so advocating for improved working conditions is essential for optimal patient care. Advocacy efforts help resolve various issues affecting the nursing workforce, including nurse-patient ratios, adequate staffing, and safe working conditions, enhancing the overall quality of care.
Nurse-patient ratios are a major concern in nursing as the more nurses for the patient population, the better for the healthcare system. Establishing and sustaining safe nurse-to-patient ratios is necessary to ensure that nurses provide adequate care to each patient. Advocates may, for instance, lobby for legislative measures mandating minimum staffing levels or collaborate with hospital administrators to develop policies that promote optimal staffing. This will make the work of each nurse efficient.
Staffing is another essential element of a supportive workplace environment. Inadequate staffing can increase nurses’ burdens and working hours and create a higher risk of medical errors. Advocates can address personnel issues by ensuring that organizations provide competitive compensation, opportunities for professional development, and mentoring programs. Nurses must also have access to personal protective equipment and receive training in violence prevention and de-escalation techniques. To enhance overall care, support, and resources should also be provided for mental health and well-being.
- Advocacy for mental health resources
Due to the demanding nature of their jobs, nurses are susceptible to burnout, anxiety, tension, and depression. They can reduce fatigue, promote well-being, and remain committed and focused by advocating for self-care and mental health resources. Supporting mental health and well-being can begin with a culture that values self-care and a healthy work-life balance. For instance, nursing organizations may provide workshops on mindfulness, meditation, and other relaxation techniques to assist nurses in coping with the emotional demands of the profession. They can also implement policies encouraging regular pauses and sufficient time off to recharge and recuperate.
Providing nurses with mental health resources helps promote good health. Advocates can lobby for increased access to mental health services such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which offer confidential counseling services to nurses experiencing personal or work-related issues. Peer support programs can also be implemented to provide a secure environment for nurses to share their experiences, discuss their challenges, and receive emotional support from peers who understand the unique demands of their profession.
- Encourages interdisciplinary partnership
The complexity of modern patient care necessitates collaboration with other professionals for optimal outcomes. Organizations should encourage a team-based approach to patient care, advocacy, and education that can foster collaboration. This involves recognizing and valuing each healthcare professional’s unique skills and expertise and emphasizing the significance of clear communication and cooperation. For instance, nursing organizations can advocate for policies encouraging regular interprofessional meetings for healthcare professionals from various disciplines to discuss patient cases, share insights, and develop coordinated care.
Education is crucial in this context as well. By participating in interprofessional education (IPE) programs, nurses can better understand the roles and responsibilities of other healthcare professionals, including physicians, chemists, social workers, and occupational therapists. This knowledge helps dismantle barriers between disciplines, foster mutual respect, and facilitate productive collaboration. In addition, advocacy efforts can focus on facilitating shared learning and problem-solving among healthcare professionals.
- Attracts new talent to the profession
Advocacy and education initiatives help showcase the dynamic nature of nursing and can attract passionate individuals to the profession. Promoting diverse professional roles and opportunities is one method for achieving this objective. By highlighting the various areas of specialization, such as critical care, pediatrics, mental health, and public health nursing, prospective nurses can better comprehend the breadth of the profession and find areas that align with their passions and interests. Individuals who may not have regarded nursing as a viable career option in the past may also be inspired by educational campaigns or career fairs which emphasize the attractive nature of nursing.
Dispelling common misconceptions is essential to attract new talent to the nursing profession. This assists in challenging stereotypes and demonstrating the vital role of nurses in healthcare by highlighting their clinical expertise, leadership skills, and dedication to patient-centered care. Social media campaigns, documentaries, and public speaking engagements can feature nurses sharing their experiences and insights to show their value in the modern healthcare system.
In addition, education initiatives that support an inclusive learning environment can attract new talent. By offering mentorship, financial assistance, and other resources to individuals from diverse backgrounds, nursing organizations can ensure that the nursing workforce is representative of the populations they serve.
- Improves interest in nursing associations and the efficacy of these associations
Advocacy and education enable nurses to become active members of their professional organizations, such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the International Council of Nurses (ICN). This participation enhances the collective voice and impact of nursing organizations. It also improves their ability to advocate for better working conditions, patient care, and opportunities for professional development. Continual advocacy and education strengthen nursing organizations by fostering a sense of professional identity and pride among nurses. As nurses increase their understanding of their profession’s history, achievements, and ongoing challenges, they are more likely to develop a sense of belonging and dedication to their professional community. This sense of identity can encourage them to participate in nursing organizations, conferences, and networking events. These factors can contribute to a more cohesive and robust professional community.
Education and advocacy efforts can also aid in developing leadership skills in nursing. It enables nurses to assume active roles within their professional organizations, which can contribute to enhanced career opportunities. For example, leadership training programs, seminars, and mentorship programs can equip nurses with the skills and confidence to serve on committees, lead advocacy efforts, and engage in policy development. This will help nursing organizations better represent the interests of their members and effect meaningful change in the healthcare system.
- Increases trust in the nursing workforce
A well-educated and empowered nursing workforce increases the public’s confidence and trust in the healthcare system. How? It is easier for nurses to provide high-quality care, communicate effectively with patients and families, and navigate complex healthcare situations. This, in turn, can increase public trust, essential for encouraging patient engagement, adherence to treatment plans, and overall satisfaction.
However, the nursing workforce needs to provide care based on scientific evidence. When nurses are informed on the most recent medical developments, research findings, and best practices, they can provide care that conforms to current standards and guidelines. This can result in improved patient outcomes, fewer complications, and increased patient confidence in their care. Effective communication between nurses and patients is another aspect of fostering public confidence and trust. A well-educated nurse can effectively explain complicated medical information, address patient concerns, and involve them in decision-making. This can help patients feel more knowledgeable, valued, and in control of their healthcare journey.
- Helps to identify disparities in healthcare and also avoid them
Advocacy and education initiatives help nurses identify and address healthcare access and outcomes disparities to promote health equity. For example, social determinants strongly determine whether individuals gain healthcare access. Social determinants of health are the conditions under which people are born, grow, reside, work, and age, and they substantially impact the health outcomes of the population as a whole. In this context, education initiatives equip nurses with the tools and knowledge to comprehend the complex factors contributing to health disparities and develop targeted interventions to address these problems. For instance, a nurse that understands that in some states, vulnerable populations lack access to healthcare can help proffer solutions to the challenge.
Promoting nurses’ cultural competence is a crucial aspect of addressing healthcare disparities. Cultural competence is the ability to comprehend, communicate with, and interact effectively with individuals of different cultures. Educational programs promoting cultural competence can assist nurses in acquiring the necessary skills to provide culturally sensitive care, enhance patient-provider communication, and foster more equitable health outcomes. Nurses can also push for policy changes that promote health equity that resolve healthcare disparities. These could be policies that enhance access to care for underserved populations, reduce barriers to preventive services, and address systemic factors contributing to health disparities.
- To understand cultural differences and how to address them
Continual education enables nurses to comprehend cultural differences better and provide culturally appropriate care for diverse patient populations. Providing nurses with a solid foundation in the principles of cultural competence, such as cultural awareness, knowledge, skill, and sensitivity, is one way in which advocacy and education are beneficial.
Educational programs and seminars can assist nurses in acquiring these skills by exposing them to a variety of cultural perspectives. It can also offer strategies for incorporating cultural competence into daily practice. For instance, a nurse who has received training in cultural competence may be better able to recognize how a patient’s cultural background may influence their beliefs about illness and treatment and modify their communication style accordingly.
In addition, continuing education can expose nurses to the unique healthcare requirements and obstacles various cultural groups face. This may involve understanding how social determinants of health, such as income, education, and living conditions, impact certain populations disproportionately. These factors contribute to increased patient satisfaction and more equitable healthcare outcomes.
- Supports evidence-based practice
Continual education enables nurses to evaluate and employ research findings to achieve evidence-based patient care. Nurses must be able to evaluate and implement research findings in patient care by increasing their critical thinking skills. Nurses must be able to evaluate the quality and relevance of research articles, systematic reviews, and clinical practice guidelines to determine the best course of action for their patients.
Educational programs and seminars can also equip nurses to appraise the research literature critically, assess its validity and reliability, and synthesize the findings to inform their clinical practice. For instance, a nurse who has received training in research evaluation may be better able to evaluate the strength of the evidence supporting a new treatment intervention and determine whether it is appropriate for their patients. This adaptability made many nurses excellent at their jobs during the pandemic. Participation in conferences, professional development courses, and professional nursing organizations can make learning easier for career nurses.
- Increases job satisfaction and retention
Advocacy and education initiatives contribute to a more satisfied and dedicated nursing workforce by reducing turnover and retaining experienced professionals. As previously mentioned, continuing education enables nurses to increase their knowledge and abilities, pursue advanced degrees and certifications, and grow their careers. This sense of professional development and achievement can also boost job satisfaction and dedication to nursing. A nurse specializing in an area of interest, such as oncology or critical care, may feel more fulfilled and more likely to remain in the profession for the long term than a generalist nurse.
The working environment is an additional factor that affects job satisfaction and retention. As previously discussed, advocacy efforts addressing issues such as nurse-patient ratios, staffing levels, and secure working conditions can contribute to a more supportive work environment. This increases job satisfaction and decreases the probability of exhaustion.
It is impossible to overstate the significance of continuous advocacy and education for nurses. In addition to enhancing the knowledge and abilities of nurses, these initiatives promote professional development, facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, and empower nurses to advocate for their patients. Additionally, advocacy and education initiatives contribute to improved working conditions, promote nurses’ mental health and well-being, and encourage lifelong learning.