By Gloria Ohmart, Ed.D, MN, APRN
The passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act means we must increase our efforts in care coordination to provide optimal quality care to all insured patients. Empowered nurses possess highly effective conflict resolution skills and understand the skillful application of nursing ethics which are among the prerequisite skills of nurse advocates working on a strong patient care team. A culture of advocacy and empowerment among nursing students decreases the length of hospital stays and improves patient outcomes overall.
Nurses advocate for patient safety when they coordinate patient care delivered by multiple health care providers. When multiple practitioners provide care for a patient, each member of the team needs access to complete medical information such as tests, procedures, surgeries, consults, and medications to prevent errors caused by practitioner oversight.
Uncoordinated care contributes to fragmentation in patient care and could cause significant risk to patient safety. An elderly person can see up to two primary care practitioners and five specialists within one year. According to the AHRQ 2011 National Healthcare Quality Report, increased care coordination reduces hospitalizations in patients with heart failure, reduces readmissions in patients with mental health conditions, and reduces mortality and dependency in patients with stroke.
Patients seek to be well. Nurses are patient advocates who provide education for family members and home care providers and recommend resources to maintain the patient’s high level of wellness. They inform patients that they have a right to participate in their care, a right to safe care, a right to access care, and a right to be fully informed of all the treatment options available.
Empowered nurse advocates maintain open communications with all members of the health care team. Rather than accept the misconception that nurses are people to whom work is delegated, nurses empower themselves to deliver quality patient care independently and collaboratively as equal members of the health care team. Although nurses continue to provide bedside care and being a calming influence for patients enduring stress of illness, today’s nurses build relationships across the health care team on behalf of their patients.
Nurses understand the important role higher education plays in preparing nurses to be successful leaders and patient advocates working in future health care systems. Because nurse advocacy is one of the basic professional roles and responsibilities, it is woven into the curriculum at American Sentinel University. Patient advocacy, leadership, communication, and building relationships in complex health care environments are essential concepts that are woven throughout our nursing curriculum. Undergraduate and graduate nursing students at American Sentinel University complete their nursing studies in a flexible online classroom environment. They are able to participate in meaningful discussions facilitated by nurse faculty in addition completing to their coursework.
Nursing is no longer simply about sitting by the bedside, holding the patient’s hand and being a calming influence, but about building relationships within care teams so we can deliver patient-centered care. The biggest impact we can have in the future of nurse advocacy and building successful leaders in our nursing programs is through education and communicating our understanding of the role of professionalism in the health care system.
-Dr. Ohmart is the Associate Dean, Simulations at American Sentinel University and is responsible for design and implementations of educational simulations across the University. She can be reached at Gloria.Ohmart@americansentinel.edu
Editor’s Note: This week is National Nurses Week. Learn more about the contributions nurses make to academic medicine, and more about National Nurses Week here.