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Nurse advocacy is an ethic of practice

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Nurse advocacy is an ethic of practice in which nurses support other nurses to promote the wellbeing of both individuals. To uphold the practice standards and scope of practice which govern nurses' licenses, nurses need the freedom and autonomy to practice as healthcare professionals. Nurses should not be placed in positions that restrict their ability to practice according to licensing standards and their professional oath because of fear of retribution.

Currently, professional autonomy is not intrinsic to the practice of nursing. The nurse is critically handicapped in acting in accordance with the legal, ethical, and moral standards of nursing because of organizational power structures. The balance of power needs to shift away from over-controlling, bureaucratic systems that compromise nurse integrity. No longer can healthcare organizations operate using a military model of obedience because the integrity of the entire healthcare system is threatened when nurses are unable to perform their duties as professionals. 1

Nurses must remain alert and vigilant to instances of incompetence, unethical/illegal practices, and/or actions that are harmful to the nurse’s best interest.1  Nurses must champion the rights of all nurses, and position themselves to stand together with their peers to change the status quo. Nurses bring a different perspective to the board rooms of healthcare organizations. Inter-professional and collaborative relationships must be fostered at all levels of an organization with emphasis on executive management and medical staff relationships.

As leaders, it is time for nurses to demand and expect a re-structuring of the practice environment to ensure that professional identity of nurses is recognized and the development of nurses’ professional power.2 When the integrity of a nurse is compromised, the integrity of the healthcare delivery system as a whole is also compromised, as does the safety of the public; the patients we pledged to serve and protect.

  1. Bernal, EW. The nurse as patient advocate. Hastings Center Report. Jul-Aug 1992;22(4):18.
  2. Duffield CM, Roche MA, Blay N, & Stasa H. Nursing unit managers, staff retention and the work environment. J Clinical Nurs. 2010;20:23-33.


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