It is a method of providing information and supporting clients in their decisions. Pleading a patients case when necessary and protecting the client from worry when possible is important (Kennedy, 2006). In simple terms, it means actively supporting a cause and trying to get others to support it. It is speaking up and effecting change. It can be drawing attention to an important issue or directing those that need to make a decision in the right direction (Hussein, 2005).
Advocacy has been an essential component of Registered Nurses professional role since 1976. It is much more important now than it was then, with the public demanding more control over their own healthcare (Bu & Jezewski, 2006). Patients in todays system with all of its equipment and techniques can be fairly powerless if no one is there to advocate. The American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements requires that nurses advocate for, and protect the health, well-being, safety, values, and rights of patient in the healthcare system (ANA.org). The International Council of Nurses Code of Ethics for Nurses also mandates an advocacy role for nurses (Kennedy, 2005).
In the twentieth century, nursing advocacy has had to take on a large dose of ethics. With advent of medical technology and science, end of life issues have become much greater. The care of the dying patient has shifted from family and the community to health professionals. Advocacy according to Thacker, (2008), is the common thread of quality between end of life nursing care, encompassing pain, symptom management, ethical decision making, cultural sensitivity, and caring for patients through their death and dying experiences. Nursing spends more time with patients when they face death than any other member of the healthcare team and therefore, must advocate for