Discussion: Nurses as Health Advocates

Discussion: Nurses as Health Advocates

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Discussion: Nurses as Health Advocates

What does it take to be an effective health advocate? As a nurse, you have many opportunities to advocate for patients and populations, whether formally or informally. Being an advocate involves more than knowing how to lobby or to whom to write letters. It requires passion and compassion, commitment and courage.

In this Discussion, you will consider the attributes of an effective advocate for population health and/or the nursing profession. You will analyze those attributes that help nurses be a powerful force in improving the quality of health care and in this case especially, the needs of returning veterans and their families.

To prepare:

  • Review the article “On Being a Good Nurse: Reflections on the Past and Preparing for the Future” and “War, its aftermath, and U.S. health policy: Toward a comprehensive health program for America’s military personnel, veterans, and their families” found in this week’s Learning Resources.
  • Consider the multiple health care needs of returning veterans and their families.


Post two types of health needs returning veterans and their families might need. How might you advocate for the needs of this population. What type of advocacy skills would you need and how could you develop them. What responsibility does a nurse have to be an advocate? Give specific examples.

Week 8: Advocacy

Nursing has a rich history of advocacy beginning with Florence Nightingale. Nightingale often advocated for better hospital conditions, especially with regard to sanitation, hygiene, hospital management, and planning. In the latter half of her life, she campaigned for health reform and policies to improve quality of care. Her efforts stand as an exemplar for nurses advocating for better standards, health care reform, and policy.

This rich tradition continues. Consider the following quote from Isabel Maitland Stewart on the role of nurses as leaders and advocates:

It is evident . . . that leadership in nursing . . . is of supreme importance at this time. Nursing has faced many critical situations in its long history, but probably none more critical than the situation it is now in, and none in which the possibilities, both of serious loss and of substantial advance, are greater. What the outcome will be depends in large measure on the kind of leadership the nursing profession can give in planning for the future and in solving stubborn and perplexing problems. . . if past experience is any criterion, little constructive action will be taken without intelligent and courageous leadership.

This quote was made over 50 years ago as Stewart assessed the field of nursing following World War II. Reflect on the field of nursing from the time of Florence Nightingale to Isabel Stewart, to current circumstances. How have things progressed? How have they remained the same?

Last week, you examined the far-reaching implications of creating policy; however, without sufficient advocacy, proposed policy is often not successfully implemented. This week, you will evaluate how nurses can prepare themselves to fulfill the role of health advocate in furthering policies that improve the quality of and access to health care. You will also begin to develop a health advocacy campaign.

Stewart, I.M. (1953). The education of nurses. New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, as quoted in White Paper on the Role of the Clinical Nurse Leader (2007), American Associations of Colleges of Nursing. Retrieved from…

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Analyze attributes of effective advocacy for patient and population health
  • Assess personal advocacy attributes
  • Evaluate the role of nurse as advocate

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Learning Resources

Note: To access this week’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.


Milstead, J. A. (2019). Health policy and politics: A nurse’s guide (6th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

  • Chapter 3, “Government Response: Legislation” (pp. 36-54) (review)This chapter explores the multiple factors that influence the development of public policy through the legislative branch of government.

Begley, A. (2010). On being a good nurse: Reflections on the past and preparing for the future. International Journal of Nursing Practice16(6), 525–532.
 On being a good nurse: Reflections on the past and preparing for the future by Begley, A. in International Journal of Nursing Practice, 16(6). Copyright 2010 by John Wiley & Sons . Reprinted by permission of John Wiley & Sons via the Copyright Clearance Center

In this article, the author reflects on the qualities of a good nurse in both the past and present. The article presents a 4-point framework that exemplifies the foundational qualities of modern professional ethics and conduct.

Davis-Alldritt, L. (2011). Presidential inaugural address: Advocacy, access, and achievement. Journal of School Nursing27(4), 249–251.
Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
This address explicates links between school nursing, school health services, and student success. The author uses personal anecdotes to teach lessons in advocacy, access, and achievement.

Deyton, L., Hess, W. J., & Jackonis, M. J. (2008, Winter). War, its aftermath, and U.S. health policy: Toward a comprehensive health program for America’s military personnel, veterans, and their families. Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, 36(4), 677–689.
Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Karpf, T., Ferguson, J. T., & Swift, R. (2010). Light still shines in the darkness: Decent care for all. Journal of Holistic Nursing28(4), 266–274.
Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
This article details the challenges of health care crises at the global, national, and local levels. The text proposes a values-based approach to health care that takes into account the voices of the population being served, rather than excluding them.

Paquin, S. O. (2011). Social justice advocacy in nursing: What is it? How do we get there? Creative Nursing17(2), 63–67.
Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
This text defines social justice advocacy and contrasts it to the patient-nurse advocacy model. The article also discusses social justice advocacy’s challenges and their potential solutions.

International Council of Nurses. (2008). Promoting health: Advocacy guide for health professionals. Retrieved from
This web resource documents the efforts of the International Council of Nurses to ensure quality nursing care for all, as well as sound health policies globally through the advancement of nursing knowledge and presence worldwide.

Vancouver Coastal Health. (n.d.). Vancouver Coastal Health Population Health: Advocacy guidelines and resources. Retrieved from…
This article presents guidelines, parameters, and resources for conducting population health advocacy.


Laureate Education (Producer). (2012g). The needle exchange program. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 14 minutes. 

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