Nurse advocates act as the intermediary between patients, families, and the medical establishment. They provide education and information to help give patients an unbiased voice. Nurse advocates use networking and research skills to gather the resources to represent the patient’s desires and put them into action.
Nurse advocates are skilled at communicating during situations that can be tense. They must carefully question the judgment of all involved and tease out the true wishes of the patient and family. Nurse advocates will then initiate meetings with medical providers, patients, and their families to develop a plan of care that addresses everyone’s concerns.
Usually, nurse advocates are hired directly by the patient or family. Insurance typically does not pay for their services though nurse advocates can help patients negotiate with insurance companies if there are problems with coverage for medical treatments. Nurse advocates maintain ongoing relationships with those they serve, which can go on for years depending on the case.
Nurse advocates often receive advanced training to improve their skills. However, there are no required certifications. Some become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) or obtain master’s or doctoral degrees in a related area such as public health or health policy.
All nurses are patient advocates, but nurse advocates are dedicated entirely to supporting vulnerable patients who may not be equipped to make informed decisions about their care. In addition, nurse advocates may need to discuss difficult medical issues, e.g., end-of-life issues, with the patient and family.
Some patients need assistance navigating complex conditions such as after an extensive auto accident injury or during cancer treatments. Nurse advocates help patients understand their medical therapies, risks, alternatives, and costs. They can negotiate with insurers and billing offices, reach out to reliable care resources, and contact lawyers if needed.
Nurse advocates translate medical terms into straightforward language and educate families about how to modify their lives and their homes. They speak up for patients who are too overwhelmed or unable to express their concerns and help arrange for additional procedures or testing to decide if an alternative health plan should be considered.