The Advocate

 

Over the last three turbulent years, many healthcare professionals struggled with a barrage of complicated emotions: anger, profound sadness, confusion, hope, pride, and humility. We’ve weathered daily, sometimes hourly, storms within our home units: staffing shortages, supply shortages & replacements, disconnected parents, new visitation policies, and ever changing Covid testing policies for patients, parents, and staff. When we struggled, we felt alone in our confusion even amid our closest work connections; resounding cynicism and fundamental turmoil were our best friends and our toughest challenges. For many, this overwhelming tidal wave was enough to push them out of healthcare, and for others it forced them to rethink their roles within the healthcare system. If I touched on a nerve or struck a chord within you after reading all of that, take a moment to refocus your breathing before continuing – it’s a lot to contemplate, and it’s an even bigger realization to discover we made it to the mountain peak and are now on the other side.

 

Like many of you, I’ve questioned my purpose, my abilities, and my constitution for my role in healthcare, however, at the end of each long stretch of shifts I am grounded by one of my core professional beliefs – Advocacy. Many years ago, I was on a plane headed to a NANN conference and was asked by the passenger next to me the usual casual questions – “Where are you headed? & What do you do for a living?”. After discussing my destination and occupation, the gentleman signaled me to lean in for a whispered secret. “You may be a nurse and a student, but that’s not what you really are,” he said. “You’re an Advocate.” I politely smiled and nodded my head, and after a bit more back & forth discussion, he explained his unique insight at length and forever changed my perception. To begin, you must ask yourself five primary questions:

 

 

He was adamant - if a person can answer yes to all these questions, that person is an Advocate. But for whom are you an Advocate?

 

You are an advocate for your patients. They depend on you to be detail oriented, to make critical decisions regarding their care, to complete tasks on their behalf, to maintain a schedule, to intercede when necessary, and to recognize when more, or less, help is needed.

 

You are an advocate for your company. You are timely and purposeful in your actions. You are up to date on current policies and procedures as it relates to your position and your patients. You follow safe practices, exhibiting good habits with deed/action and not solely with words. You limit waste and promote new practices which reduce costs to company and patient alike.

 

You are an advocate for your profession. You live by example through kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, and wisdom. You are trusted as a knowledgeable resource to family, friends, and strangers alike. You encourage healthful practices. You provide a safe and caring environment. You read current articles, studies, reports, magazines, blogs, etc. to stay up to date on current practices in your field.

 

You are an advocate for yourself. You understand boundaries. You take time out to care for yourself. You understand the importance of your own mental, physical, spiritual, sexual, and emotional wellbeing. You care for something or someone other than yourself: children, parent, spouse, friend, pet, plant, house, etc.

 

You are an Advocate. Let that sink in for a moment and reread those descriptors one more time. What are your strengths? What are your areas of growth? Remember, your role as an Advocate is a path, not an absolute. Practices change, perceptions shift, personal needs flex and bend, but all the while your role as an Advocate remains, creating a space for learning, growth, development, and soulful elevation. As a member of CCANN and NANN, you are already an active Advocate for your patient, company, profession, and self. Your membership promotes those four advocacy roles by encouraging new practices, research in current and changing practices, engagement with peers, and a setting for Advocates to gather and grow.

 

As Florence Nightingale once said, “Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses.... we must be learning all of our lives”. Be the Advocate you are destined to be. CCANN and NANN are right here by your side