Patient advocacy: a skill students can learn and practise before qualification
Advocacy is essential to nursing and can offer a nursing student the privilege to do good (beneficence), which is one of the key biomedical ethical principles (Beauchamp and Childress, 2013). However, whether nursing students can function successfully in this role in practice has been questioned (Hanks, 2008).
The concept involves actively ensuring that a patient's rights, choices and causes are defended and involves acting or intervening in the patient's best interest. It is speaking on behalf of those who cannot communicate or empowering patients to speak for themselves and make informed choices (Spence, 2011).
For nursing students, advocacy presents a good opportunity to use communication skills, knowledge of professional values and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) (2018) code of conduct. If nursing students play their roles judiciously, they can make a positive and lasting impact on patients' lives. Nurses interact more with patients than any other health professionals and are more involved in day-to-day care. Patients are more likely to confide in nurses, giving access to privileged and sensitive information that doctors or other health professionals may not have. Therefore, it is incumbent on nurses to fulfil their role as advocate professionally and be committed to addressing patients' needs and concerns.
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