The role of NPs in education and advocacy

Nurses play a vital role in the wellbeing of their patients, but in more advanced positions, such as that of nurse practitioner (NP), they are also involved in supporting the rights of patients and empowering them. Patient advocacy and education can help people make informed decisions about their care. Both are crucial when it comes to ensuring that everyone gets high-quality medical treatment. Nurse practitioners are uniquely placed to identify barriers to healthcare and find solutions that can help improve patient outcomes. It’s about promoting patient-centered care, minimizing health inequity and giving people a say in their treatment.

The role of a nurse practitioner in US healthcare

Nurse practitioners are considered expert providers of care and education. They undergo peer reviews, abide by a set of strict standards, and periodically have their clinical outcomes evaluated. To remain updated with healthcare practices and innovations, they participate in regular professional development activities and continue self-directed learning throughout their careers.

The initial training to become a nurse practitioner is rigorous, and in previous years, RNs have struggled to fit it in with their work commitments. However, some master’s programs are now taught remotely, with no in-person lectures to attend. This makes these programs extremely accessible and ensures more nurses can progress into responsible leadership roles.

The online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program is available through reputable institutions, such as Carson-Newman University, where experienced healthcare professionals deliver it. It is regularly updated to stay current with recent nursing trends. Registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree can earn their qualification through a combination of online coursework, a three-day campus residency and in-person clinical placements within as little as 32 months. This program is designed to equip students to excel as family nurse practitioners (FNP) and provide their patients with holistic care.

How does a nurse advocate for patients?

Nurse practitioners function as advocates, educators, and healthcare professionals. Ethical values, excellent communication skills, and clinical competence drive their work. To improve the health outcomes of each patient and promote excellent care for all, nurse practitioners participate in professional forums and discussion groups and conduct research. Their expertise and experience mean they are ready to support individual patients and families in various ways.

Ensuring patients are informed about their rights and choices

Using their communication skills, nurse practitioners can ensure patients understand the diagnosis they have received and its implications. This might include the medical procedures offered, the alternatives to those treatments and the potential risks. They encourage patients to expect respectful and dignified interactions with medical staff, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age or religion. If something goes wrong, they will advise patients on their rights—for example, the right to a second opinion or to refuse a specific treatment.

Standing up for patients

Nursing practitioners will advocate for the rights they know the patient has within the healthcare system. That includes an expectation of confidentiality, privacy, and the right to give informed consent. Patients are only sometimes aware of their rights when receiving care, but the NP will help keep them informed. They will help to ensure that people from different backgrounds are not experiencing discrimination based on their age, color, or sexual orientation.

Taking part in interdisciplinary collaborations

Nurse practitioners work with healthcare teams from various fields to meet the needs of their patients. To develop and implement care plans, they will liaise with social workers, other nurses, physicians and pharmacists. In addition, they will speak to their patients in depth about their care plan, listen to any concerns they have and then pass these on to other people on the team.

Part of this will involve monitoring patients for any signs of improvement, as well as any worsening of their condition or a reaction to the prescribed medication. Alongside other health professionals, the NP will determine the right medications for a patient and the dose they should be taking. If they have any concerns regarding a treatment program, the NP will speak with their colleagues to prevent any harm from coming to the patient.

Practice motivational interviewing to further a patient’s health goals

Motivational interviewing is a technique that nurses use to promote healthier ways of living and encourage patients to be active in their care. They may be interested in encouraging a patient to make changes to their diet, to exercise more, or to drink less. Instead of simply pointing out what needs to happen, they will empower the patient by showing them they can make these changes independently. This involves helping them to see what the problem is, how it can be dealt with and what the results could be.

By establishing a plan of action, including goal setting and decision-making, the NP works with the patient. During these discussions, the patient can express any worries or queries they have and receive advice, so nothing holds them back from achieving their health goals.

Linking patients to resources in the hospital and outside

Patients are not always aware of the resources available to them, whether these are offered from within a healthcare facility or the community. From transport to and from appointments to financial aid for those in need and support networks for caregivers, there are many ways an NP can promote the wellbeing of those in their care. Nurses can also help patients find medical interpreters if their first language is not English; this helps with appointment scheduling, understanding medical advice and the overall success of a treatment plan.

Working for the best interests of every patient

In addition to advocating for themselves and their profession, nurse practitioners look out for the best interests of their patients. Often, when people are not well, they are ill-prepared to navigate a sometimes-complex healthcare system and, therefore, must rely on the expertise of an NP. Professional support promotes patients’ autonomy, keeps people informed about their condition, keeps them safe during treatment, and can deliver better health outcomes.

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