How Do You Become a Nurse Advocate?

Increasing numbers of healthcare institutions are looking for compassionate, but tough employees willing to become a nurse advocate. Public health and insurance programs are realizing the housing, transportation and compliance barriers that prevent patients from following medical instructions, and nurse advocates are a solution to this disparity. By earning a nursing degree and committing to helping patients through their most difficult times, you can make a genuine difference in the health and happiness of your community.

What Degree Do You Need to Become a Nurse Advocate?

For most positions, you will need to become a registered nurse. This requires completing an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), although many students earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). You must also pass a state examination and adhere to an ethical code of conduct. In areas with fewer healthcare providers, such as rural hospitals or Native American reservations, you can become a nurse advocate as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), which usually requires only one year of training. With either educational path, you don’t need to take specific courses or earn a minor, but classes in nursing leadership, sociology and healthcare communication will be helpful, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How Much Experience Do Nurse Advocate Positions Require?

Most nursing specialties prefer candidates with several years of experience working in direct patient care. For you to effectively work alongside physicians, hospital social workers and other members of the healthcare team, you need a strong background in clinical care. Patients will be more willing to work with you if you feel comfortable in a patient care setting. However, you can still be hired as a nurse advocate immediately after graduating with your bachelor’s of science in nursing, especially if you’re willing to move to an underserved area or bring previous experience to the role. Nursing advocacy requires a passion for patient wellness and the ability to work effectively with other healthcare providers, so your personality is just as important as your resume.

What Skills Do You Need to Be a Patient Advocate?

Successful nurse advocates communicate across cultural and professional barriers, so you’ll need high-level communication skills to work with patients and providers from diverse backgrounds. You should also understand nutrition and fitness; with healthcare experts claiming that America’s healthcare industry is contributing to high rates of obesity, nurses face a professional obligation to help patients work towards physical health, according to Time. Plus, with recent reimbursement rates being tied to long-term patient outcomes, hospitals are more willing than ever to invest in chronic disease management and behavioral interventions. This means you’ll have a better chance of being hired as a patient advocate and educator if you can demonstrate your fitness knowledge. Other important skills include organizational ability, a willingness to think creatively to find solutions to your patients’ problems and the tenacity to fight for your clients.

Related Resource: Clinical Nurse Specialist

While all nurses fight for their patients to receive the highest-quality care, health systems can be overwhelming to most patients. If you become a nurse advocate, you’ll be able to work closely with the disadvantaged clients who need your patience, knowledge and support to achieve healthy outcomes.