Nurse advocates are nurses who whose primary job is to defend patients' rights and represent their interests in order to uphold the quality of care that they receive. These nurses act as a liaison between patients and the doctors who treat them and assist patients to gain a greater understanding of their diagnosis and to make the best decisions as they move forward. Because every patient is unique and has their own set of beliefs, values, and preferences, there will inevitably be some conflict between the patient and the physician. It's the job of the nurse advocate to find solutions that work for both parties. Although technically every nurse is an advocate, there are certain positions within nursing which allow clinicians to specialize primarily in the advocacy of patients.
What Are Some Nurse Advocate Duties?
Some tasks and duties that are commonly carried out by nurse advocates tend to include:
Teach patients about the nature of their diagnosis and available treatment options
Refer patients to specialists and/or community resources
Listen to and review patient concerns or grievances and work with physicians to ensure patients are receiving the best care possible
Act as a communication bridge between patients, their families, doctors, health organizations, and insurance companies
Advocate for tests and treatments that are appropriate for the patient's diagnosis
Educate patients on insurance benefits
Assess the needs of the patient and their families and create a plan to meet those needs
Where Do Nurse Advocates Work?
The unique set of skills that a nurse advocate can bring to the table is suited for the following environments:
Long-term care centers
Independent healthcare consultants
How to Become a Nurse Advocate
Either an ADN or BSN will be required for nurse advocate roles, and those with BSN degrees will be in a better position to do so since they'll be more competitive in the job market. Because there isn't specialty certification for this position, once an RN license is obtained, the nurse can then begin positioning themselves within the nurse advocacy specialty. A keen understanding of insurance, care routes, conflict resolution, cultural sensitivities, and community resources is crucial to finding success in a nursing advocacy role.
Step 1: Educational Requirements
To become a nurse advocate, the following educational requirements must be met:
Hold an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university
Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
Hold an active and unrestricted RN license
Do Nurse Advocates Need an RN Degree?
Yes, nurse advocates are required to hold active and unrestricted RN licenses, as they must be skilled at identifying patient issues and working within the organization or system to find them the care that they require.
Technically, there are no formal certifications or credentials required to become a nurse advocate. However, there are at least two credentialing programs which train nurses as healthcare advocates. The first program - operated by Healthcare Liaison Inc - instructs healthcare professionals on how to advocate for children, adults, and seniors, how to handle ethical dilemmas, and how to make informed decisions when dealing with complex medical cases. In total, the credential program takes just nine months to complete and costs $3,500.
The second program, which has been endorsed by the American Holistic Nurses Association, also instructs nurses how to become an RN patient advocate (RNPA). This program consists of a 6.5-month online training course which is followed by a 7-day residential immersion program. The program's tuition cost is $6,399.
Nurse Advocate Jobs, Salary & Employment
Advocating for vulnerable patients who might not be able to advocate for themselves can be incredibly rewarding. This may include patients who are children, unconscious, mentally ill, uniformed, or fearful of healthcare professionals. Those deciding to enter into this profession should be highly compassionate and have excellent communication skills.
Job Outlook - The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of available job positions for registered nurses will grow by roughly 16% between 2014 and 2024. Since nurse advocates are technically RNs, it's reasonable to assume that the job outlook for their profession will be relatively similar to that of traditional RNs
What Is the Average Salary of a Nurse Advocate?
ZipRecruiter reports that the average yearly salary for someone employed as a nurse advocate is $63,191 nationally. Crucial factors that will determine the earning potential of a nurse advocate include things like the geographical location of employment, employing organization (corporate hospital, independent community hospital, or self-employed), amount of experience, education level, and more. Similar factors are likely to play a role in determining the kinds of benefits that a nurse advocate can expect to receive. Generally speaking, unless nurse advocates are self-employed, they can expect to receive medical, dental, vision, and prescription insurance coverage in their employee benefits packages if they are working full-time. Some annual sick leave/paid time off is also generally included.