When healthcare has your head spinning, or leaves you feeling vulnerable, one of the best sources of support is a nurse advocate. This is a nurse who works independent of a hospital or practice, and functions as your eyes, ears, and voice. Typically, a nurse advocate has many years of clinical experience, advanced education, or certifications to augment their knowledge. This allows them to ask the right questions and speak up on your behalf. They also aim to work collaboratively with your pre-existing care team to help elevate your care from a team based approach.
A nurse advocate is truly like having your best friend in the healthcare industry. It is someone who knows you and your deepest wishes, but also understands healthcare and knows the lingo. They also get to know your family, your social support, and every critical aspect about you that may influence your health. Your nurse advocate helps you understand health options and fill in gaps of knowledge. They are also the one to hold your hand when times are rough, and act as your biggest cheerleader when you need one. A nurse advocate will remember the things you can’t when you are overwhelmed, and can help anticipate your needs because they know you. But more than anything- they listen to you and your concerns, and they put you at the very center of everything. To a nurse advocate, you and your loved ones are the only priority that they see.
So what exactly does this look like? If you are in the hospital, your nurse advocate is making sure your pain is controlled responsibly, that you are getting out of bed and staying active as much as possible. They also are making sure that you are getting the best nutrition, and talk to you and your care team about ways to improve sleep. They are also really important to have around when you are under the care of a less experienced nurse. A study from the Mayo Clinic demonstrates that nursing experience matters, and an experienced nurse intuition can catch problems before they can even be quantified (Romero-Brufau, 2019).
In an outpatient setting, your nurse advocate can be your second set of eyes and ears when visiting your doctors or other members of your medical teams. Because they know and understand you, your family, and your living environment, they know what to be thinking about. They can help you understand your options, and translate what medical professionals are saying in simple language. A great nurse advocate will also keep your family abreast of what is happening, and clearly communicate without losing pertinent information. They can also help you understand all of your options, so that you can make the very best decisions possible.
And lastly, having a nurse advocate by your side as you age is priceless. Not only does this help you feel safer knowing you have a watchful eye, but your family can rest assured that all your health needs are being addressed in a timely fashion. This is particularly important for family who live at a distance. Regular visits will allow a nurse to be able to catch changes before they become problems. They also know how to tap into your community resources, and help your family navigate any changes that they need to be aware of. Your nurse advocate will work hard to ensure that your goals for aging comfortably where you would like to, and can save your family a lot of money and worry.
Nurse advocates are one of the most important resources you can have. The peace of mind alone is incredible, but the financial and quality of life implications are even greater.
Romero-Brufau, G. (2019). The fifth vital sign? Nurse worry predicts inpatient deterioration within 24 hours. JAMIA Open, 2(4), 465–470. https://doi.org/10.1093/jamiaopen/ooz033