Nurse administrators serve in a leadership role, but they can also act as advocates for fellow nurses, improving not only working conditions but patient safety as well. They provide a voice for nurses and represent staff in healthcare policy development.
The following are a few of the ways in which nurse administrators can bring about positive change in healthcare organizations.
Allocation of Resources
Nurse administrators are typically involved in the budgeting process. As such, they can work to protect the interests of nurses even when financial pressures are high.
For example, many administrators sit on special budgetary committees. These committees have significant input on the types of supplies and equipment the hospital will purchase. When nurses are involved in this process, they are able to advocate for purchasing products that increase safety for both patients and nurses.
At the same time, however, there is only so much money to go around. Effective administrators ensure appropriate allocation of funds. The better educated staff members are regarding the costs associated with procedures, the more effectively they can prioritize use of equipment and supplies.
Building a Healthier Work Environment
When nurse administrators foster open communication and collaboration among staff members, they help nurses advocate for themselves. On the other hand, a work environment that promotes conflict puts patients at risk and makes staff members miserable.
Nurse administrators who empower staff members to address concerns on their own are actually promoting advocacy. This creates an environment where nurses take ownership in areas such as improved patient care. Staff members trust that their administrator will truly listen to their issues and then take action.
Addressing Challenges to Advocacy
While a nurse administrator is well-placed to be an advocate for his or her staff members, that doesn't mean it's easy to do so. Certain workplace cultures can make it very difficult to be effective.
Some nurses may find it hard to communicate issues they are experiencing. They may not provide enough specifics for an administrator to really do anything. A nurse might say something general, such as "conditions are unsafe." Well, what does that really mean? Are certain procedures not being followed correctly? Are there inefficiencies in patient discharges or intra-departmental patient transfers?
In some instances, nurses are afraid to speak up because they fear retaliation. They choose not to disrupt the status quo because they have concerns about losing their job.
That is why it is so important for nurse administrators to make sure their staff members know they are protected by the law. In Texas, for instance, the Texas Nursing Practice Act prohibits retaliation against nurses who report concerns about patient safety to the appropriate licensing board.
The Rewards of Advocacy Outweigh the Challenges
Nurses are responsible for ensuring the safety of their patients. They should not hesitate to report problems that are causing errors in patient care.
Effective nurse administrators make sure their nurses feel comfortable enough to speak up without fear of retribution. They also advocate on behalf of nurses to give their staff representation. By doing so, administrators not only create a better working environment, but a safer one as well.
Learn more about TAMIU's online Master of Science in Nursing Administration program.
Sources:American Nurse Today: Speak to Be Heard: Effective Nurse Advocacy
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