The Importance of Self-Advocacy in Healthcare

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From the Desk of L.W.

The Importance of Self-Advocacy in Healthcare

Over the last few weeks (if not months), Professor Walden has addressed burnout, our post-pandemic nursing crisis, and now she’s here to address how we as practitioners can advocate for ourselves in the workforce. 


So let’s get into it. How can we help you advocate for yourself and teach you why it’s such an important tool to leverage. 


Our healthcare industry is made up of many moving parts. There has become great concern for nurses who are continuously working and putting themselves in cyclical trauma, yet not advocating for themselves in the workplace. While clinical knowledge is an important aspect of our roles, so is self-advocating and standing up for yourself, which has become a tool no one wants to shed light on. 


Let’s dive more into these tools.


Advocate for Your PTO


So what does self-advocacy mean? When was the last time you took a day off? When was the last time you used PTO (paid-time-off)? These are tools we are given to aid our self-advocacy yet why has become a frowned upon conversation. Remember if you are not well mentally, then your patients and the care you give to those patients will never be well. 


Everyone is allowed days to rest and time to recuperate before reentering a high-stress environment where lives are being saved by the minute. And no it is not being selfish or disrespectful to your organization. The next time you feel unsafe or mentally unwell, advocate for yourself and use your PTO or take a day(s) to yourself to recharge and come back stronger. 


Here are a few ways you can ask for PTO:

“I would like to request paid time off from Monday, September 16 to Friday, September 20.”

“I am reaching out to remind you that I will be away from my desk next week. All patients have been notified and emergency coverage is arranged.”

"I would like to spend the last two weeks of August in Cape Cod. Do you think that would be workable?"


Advocate for Your Needs


One of the ways that you can advocate for yourself is just continuously asking for what you need. Every organization has a hierarchy. Adhere to this hierarchy and continue going up the ladder asking for what you need. Do not feel like you are being a nuisance or disrespectful because you are advocating for tools that you need to do your work appropriately, whether it be physical tools or a day off.  These sentiments are all important in creating a highly-productive employee, which the administration smiles at. You taking the time to heal yourself will only improve your quality of work. 


Self-advocacy leads to high productivity, so speaking up for yourself is always a good thing and produces better results. When advocating for yourself, simply take an assessment of what you need in order to do your job again. Determine if it’s tools you need or something else that’s missing. 


Here are some ways you can professionally ask for tools:

“Our unit is spending X time on X report, by adopting X tool we can effectively do our work and allocate more time to a different area.”

“A common pain-point we are facing on the floor is X, can we set up time to chat more about solutions I have for this situation?”

“I am having a hard time working on X and there are many others in a similar situation. I would like to advocate for X tool to help ease our workload.”



Advocate for Yourself


When we take a step back and reassess, it makes it easier to understand what to fulfill or what duties are important to us. And yes, there is a way to advocate for yourself. Always stay professional no matter the responses from your organization, and carry yourself with pride. Our composure and professionalism is a reflection of ourselves, not administration. 


In addition to professionalism, ask for things in writing. Instead of verbal communication, create documentation of your needs where anyone can access the information. This written notice will help administration read, review, and think about what you’re asking them, and force them to acknowledge and respond to what they have received. Remember that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, so maintain your professionalism, tone, and follow the hierarchy ladder when awaiting an answer from management. 


Here is an email template you can use when talking to administration:

Subject: X Tool Testing and Adoption

Dear (Mr/Mrs/Dr., etc),

My name is Jane Smith, and I am (introduce yourself). Over the course of my time working here, I’ve discovered that nurses on the floor spend X time doing X. I believe that this time can be better allocated to increasing time spent with patients and diagnosis. 

There is this resource I would like to bring your attention to. (Add a description about the tool/resource). By integrating this system to our current workflow, I am confident we will be able to achieve higher efficiency and become more productive.  

I would like to set up some time to chat with you about my ideas and if this is something we can introduce to our floor. Thank you so much for your time and consideration. 

Thank you,
Jane Smith


As always, we hope these tips help you advocate for yourself in the healthcare industry. Following our conversation of burnout, our current healthcare crisis, now is the time to be advocating for yourself and ensuring your mental health is a priority. 


Self-advocacy is not selfish nor disrespectful. We as professionals strive towards a work/life balance but we all know that we are at work much more than we are with our families. Where we spend our most time should encompass positive well-being for self-care.

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