April 12, 2024

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How do nurses advocate enhanced patient experience?

11 min read
nurses advocate

Patient experience is no longer a buzzword within nursing circles. As the industry undergoes continuous changes, nurses encounter several challenges, opportunities, and practices. For nurses to stay on top of these changes, they must continuously harness their skills to navigate the murky waters of the changing healthcare landscape and deliver an excellent patient experience. However, this proves to be a challenge, considering that more than half of Americans have had a recent lousy healthcare experience.

The power of nursing

According to a Forbes report, roughly 60% of Americans reported they had a negative healthcare experience in 2022. This is particularly concerning since patient experience is an essential aspect of ensuring quality healthcare for everyone, better patient retention, improved reputation, and increased revenue.

The reality is nurses’ most tremendous power in enhancing patient experience depends on their ability to communicate effectively and empathically with patients. Through effective communication, nurses get to know their patients and what is important to them. This, in turn, allows them to use the advocacy strategies outlined below to enhance the overall patient experience.

Deliver patient-centered care

Patient-centered care has taken center stage within nursing and patient circles and for a good reason. Through patient-centered care, nurses can create an experience in which patients feel involved, respected, and empowered in healthcare.

According to a recent PubMed Central study, patient-centered healthcare is linked with better emotional health, fewer laboratory evaluations, and better patient recovery. This is because patient-centered care focuses on the patient’s cultural beliefs, values, and needs. Doing so enables nurses to establish a working and understanding relationship that leads to desirable patient outcomes.

But how do competent nurses deliver patient-centered healthcare? While there are several ways for nurses to initiate patient-centered healthcare, one of the most effective is using holistic approaches that consider the patient’s physical, emotional, and social needs.

Holistic care approaches are made up of several strategies that consider the patient’s wellbeing. Using these unique strategies, nurses can promote an all-encompassing healing strategy by addressing several medical problems and considering the connection between emotions, social environment, and physical symptoms.

Incorporate cultural beliefs into healthcare delivery

Providing culturally competent healthcare is one of the everyday holistic care approaches nurses use to deliver patient-centered care. Contrary to popular belief, patient-centered healthcare is connected with cultural diversity, inclusivity, and awareness.

By adopting a culturally competent care approach, nurses can limit healthcare differences and promote a sympathetic environment that ensures care is delivered according to patients’ cultural beliefs. This is especially important in the West, wherein medical system discrepancies have been a prevalent issue.

Recent data indicates Americans have distinct healthcare experiences, even when they have the same healthcare coverage and medical conditions. This is because most healthcare cannot, or do not, recognize the patient’s societal beliefs and differences, resulting in subpar healthcare delivery.

Conversely, when nurses can incorporate patients’ cultural beliefs into their healthcare, they can eliminate the barriers that prevent patients from receiving the care they need. It also empowers nurses to understand the societal contexts and address socioeconomic factors and systemic barriers. Doing so ensures value-based, holistic, and patient-centered care that is grounded on respect and responsiveness.

Provide one-on-one counseling and emotional support

Counseling is another aspect of patient-centered care that tends to be overlooked. The reality is patients dealing with an illness feel more than the physical symptoms. They also deal with negative emotions such as fear, loneliness, anxiety, grief, and confusion.

When nurses can deliver one-on-one counseling, they can help patients deal with these difficult emotions and ensure it does not hinder their healing. Often, nurses deliver counseling by considering the whole individual — body, mind, and soul.

Using this comprehensive approach, nurses can establish open and honest communication wherein they acknowledge that the patient’s overall health is influenced by various factors such as occupation, finances, family, relationships, and self-care practices.

Put simply, counseling allows nurses to help patients address the psychological aspects of illness while promoting emotional and mental wellbeing. Doing so increases the likelihood of the patient being more cooperative and upfront with their feelings and emotions. This, in turn, leads to quicker physical recovery from illnesses, surgeries, and medical treatments.

As care becomes more collaborative and coordinated, delivering patient-centered care empowers nurses to focus on patient balance and vitality while helping them promote a deeper understanding of themselves.

Promote health literacy

As more nursing and healthcare practices put a premium on value-based care, nurses are left with no option but to promote health literacy to enhance patient experience. Promoting health literacy empowers nurses to help patients control their health by teaching them how to manage and avoid medical conditions.

When patients understand their care options and conditions, they can get rid of disparities, ensure health equity, and make educated treatment decisions. Moreover, patient education allows nursing professionals to set up reciprocal and caring relationships that make patients feel more comfortable asking questions and seeking assistance.

Recent data shows nearly half of American adults and children living with mental health conditions go without any treatment because of the stigma surrounding their illnesses. By promoting patient education, nurses can encourage patients to seek treatment and improve their quality of life regardless of suffering from chronic diseases.

But despite its importance, patient education fails so often. This is because patients differ in communication preferences, their ability to understand concepts, their educational background, and how much they want to know. Recent data reveals more than 80% of American adults are struggling with navigating the healthcare system and promoting their wellbeing.

This puts the responsibility on nurses to develop comprehensive techniques to overcome literacy challenges and determine ways to educate patients. Nurses can make health information related to patient conditions easier to access, understand, evaluate, and use, in the following ways:

Organize health screening events to promote healthy practices

Meeting patients where they are is the most effective way for nurses to promote health literacy. A nagging issue within the nation is when patients — especially those in underserved and marginalized communities — only receive health education when they go to a hospital and seek professional help.

By organizing patient outreach activities, nurses can eliminate health equity barriers and enable individuals to manage their health. This is especially important in detecting dangerous and life-threatening conditions early since the next pandemic is more likely to occur in locations that do not have adequate healthcare access.

Health screening events empower nurses to provide comprehensive evaluations and screening facilities for individuals of socioeconomically underprivileged backgrounds. Doing so makes it easier to detect diseases early and educates individuals on the steps they must take to improve their condition.

This is particularly true for many chronic diseases, such as heart illness, diabetes, and arthritis, which share similar challenges associated with self-management. With health screening events, nurses can educate individuals on managing complex health care regimens, dealing with disabilities and symptoms, and maintaining proper nutrition and exercise.

Establish a medical improvement plan to support health objectives

There is no going around the fact that reaching out to communities is the first step for nurses to promote health literacy. But the reality is, healthy communities do not happen overnight. They are built through several efforts of the city government, its local citizens, and the nurses working in the community.

As a nurse, establishing a medical improvement plan allows you to address public health issues. What makes a medical improvement plan a practical approach is its ability to help nurses expand their reach into the community and get rid of insular strategies by considering several experiences.

It is, however, necessary for nurses to perform a comprehensive health assessment to determine the community’s existing health status, issues, and requirements. While approaches vary, nurses can organize a community forum, start health disparities research projects, or perform community surveys to identify healthcare education gaps.

Once these factors have been considered, nurses can prioritize issues by determining the critical trends over time, severity, current medical resources, possible intervention strategies, and the population size affected. This empowers nurses to establish effective goals and strategies that tackle literacy gaps and enable individuals to be in charge of their own healthcare.

By educating community individuals, nurses can strengthen community action by advocating policy changes and developing new programs. Furthermore, education eliminates existing harmful practices that existing communities subscribe to.

Advocate patient rights

Advocacy is among the core pillars of the nursing profession. With increasing complexity and fragmented healthcare systems, marginalized individuals and communities often feel overwhelmed and need more vital data to make educated decisions.

Nursing education plays a vital role in developing the proper perspective that advocacy change does not occur immediately. It is an important journey that must always be worked upon to help patients facing socio-economic struggles and living in underserved and underfunded communities. For example, the ABSN program at Holy Family University emphasizes the nurse’s role as a care coordinator and special advocacy agent for specific patient groups. This training equips them with the skills to provide a much-needed voice for marginalized communities and individuals. With the right foundations in nursing practice and an understanding of evidence-based practice nurses can ensure government officials collect relevant and accurate data such as community health conditions, economic obstacles, employment statistics, and population age distributions.

Collaborate with patients and families: Nurses advocate patient rights by collaborating with patients and their families and helping them understand their concerns, needs, and preferences. This involves promoting open communication, listening to and respecting the opinions of patients and their families, and working together to uphold their rights.

Connect patients to resources: Nurses must connect clients to appropriate resources to address healthcare challenges. Most individuals going through challenges need access to these resources. By coordinating with internal and external resources, nurses can empower patients to confront challenges they may struggle to overcome alone and deliver appropriate quality care.

Support policy and system level changes: Nurses can advocate patient rights at a broader level by participating in policy development, quality improvement initiatives, and healthcare system changes.

By advocating patient rights, nurses can create an environment of openness and respect for every individual. This allows them to challenge institutional and structural oppression and the accompanying emotions of internalized oppression and privilege, while providing a safe space where everyone can feel safe.

Incorporate patient feedback into healthcare delivery

Nurses must create an environment where patients feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their opinions. Through patient feedback, nurses understand how well they communicate with their patients, such as explaining treatment options, the diagnosis, and the side effects of the medications they administer.

After all, nurses need to know what they are doing right to do more of it. Conversely, if they do not know what they are doing wrong, they cannot do less of it. By using the outlined strategies to extract feedback, nurses can incorporate them into healthcare delivery to better understand patients, measure patient satisfaction, and increase retention.

Create surveys and questionnaires: Nurses can create and distribute structured surveys and questionnaires to patients by seeking input on their experiences, satisfaction levels, and specific care aspects. While there is an art to designing a helpful survey, the questions should be related to the patient’s experience or the nursing practice to analyze their most common needs and wants.

Organize focus groups: Nurses can organize comprehensive focus group discussions with a select number of patients to explore their experiences in detail. By encouraging an open dialog, patients can pinpoint specific care aspects that may require improvement. While it may not seem like it, being specific can be valuable in addressing the root causes of an issue and implementing targeted interventions.

Conduct face-to-face interviews: Nurses can perform in-depth, face-to-face interviews with patients during hospital stays and outpatient visits to collect detailed feedback. Through in-person interviews, nurses can gain a more nuanced understanding of individual experiences and adjust accordingly to deliver patient-centered care.

Other than that, nurses can collect feedback through comment cards, social media monitoring, third-party surveys, and follow-up calls. When collecting feedback, nurses must be transparent and emphasize the value of patient input in improving care. By encouraging patients to be candid and forthright, nurses can obtain honest feedback they can use to improve patient-centered care continuously.

Work with multidisciplinary teams

As healthcare issues are viewed more holistically, interventions must be offered by numerous healthcare professionals working together. In today’s changing healthcare industry, several professionals who work in a healthcare organization, including nurses, complete their tasks in a multidisciplinary manner, or at least there is an expectation to do so.

Working with multidisciplinary teams empowers nurses to deliver integrated healthcare to individuals with chronic diseases. Doing so ensures they receive comprehensive support that addresses the various components of their wellbeing.

Unbeknown to most, the importance of integrated and coordinated healthcare in addressing physical needs, reducing stigma, and enhancing care coordination is too hard to ignore. With integrated healthcare, nurses can combine medical and psychological support to battle cognitive health symptoms and the environmental, economic, and social factors impacting healthcare delivery.

Working with multidisciplinary teams also empowers nurses to ensure care continuity. This is especially important in areas such as mental healthcare, where a consistent treatment approach can help reduce relapses or prevent the worsening of cognitive and behavioral health symptoms.

A recent study indicates care continuity can reduce unplanned hospital readmissions for patients with serious mental illness by more than 20%. Nurses working in multidisciplinary teams contribute to care continuity by working with various professionals and organizations to ensure a smooth transition for the patient among different care services and settings.

When patients access healthcare resources and support systems that complement and sustain their health, nurses can ensure their needs are met consistently across various settings and transitions. This also addresses the patients’ unique social and emotional concerns, ultimately leading to enhanced patient experiences.

Help patients use technology

Technology is revolutionizing every industry, and healthcare is no exception. Thanks to telemedicine platforms, electronic health records, and healthcare applications, nurses can streamline workflows and encourage patient engagement with their healthcare.

One way to improve healthcare delivery and experience is by helping patients use and maximize technology. When patients can access healthcare technology seamlessly, nurses facilitate efficient and effective communication while ensuring personalized remote health monitoring.

Often, these innovative healthcare technologies are inundated with powerful features that allow nurses to track multiple patients at once. When nurses spend less time charting and moving between patients, they can engage in more one-on-one interactions and provide personalized care.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all method for helping patients use technology, nurses can implement several strategies, including hands-on patient training, device demonstrations, and video tutorials. Nurses can also incorporate technology into care plans by emphasizing its role in improving self-management, communication, and overall patient care engagement.

Empowering healthcare excellence by enhancing patient experiences

Enhancing patient care is an interdisciplinary endeavor that demands a commitment to healthcare literacy, patient-centered care, and patient rights advocacy. By prioritizing a holistic healthcare approach, clear communication, and empathy, nurses can create an environment that addresses the physical components of patient care and fosters trust and emotional wellbeing.

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