Bridging the Gap: A Study of General Nurses' Perceptions of Patient Advocacy in Ireland
Nursing Ethics 2005 September; 12(5): 453-467
Advocacy has become an accepted and integral attribute of nursing practice. Despite this adoption of advocacy, confusion remains about the precise nature of the concept and how it should be enacted in practice. The aim of this study was to investigate general nurses' perceptions of being patient advocates in Ireland and how they enact this role. These perceptions were compared with existing theory and research on advocacy in order to contribute to the knowledge base on the subject. An inductive, qualitative approach was used for this study. Three focus group interviews with a total of 20 practising nurses were conducted with a sample representing different grades in a general hospital setting. Data analysis was carried out using elements of Strauss and Corbins' approach to concept development. The findings indicate that the principal role of the nurse advocate is to act as an intermediary between the patient and the health care environment. The results highlight that advocacy did, however, result in nurses becoming involved in conflict and confrontation with others and that it could be detrimental to nurses both professionally and personally. It was also clear that when enacting advocacy, nurses distinguished between 'clinical advocacy' (acting directly for patients in the clinical environment) and organizational advocacy (acting on an organizational level for one or more patients).
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