Why should NPs get involved in advocacy?

APEA Staff
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After seeing patients all day, reviewing and completing charts, and making follow-up calls, the average nurse practitioner isn’t driving home thinking, “Gee, I need to get involved in advocacy.”

But they should.

For your patients, your profession, and yourself, advocacy is realistic for even the busiest NP. It can produce numerous professional and personal rewards — and lead to new friendships and opportunities.

Defining advocacy

So what exactly is advocacy?

“Advocacy is the process of effecting change,” said Kathy Baldridge, DNP, FNP-BC, FAANP, an advocacy expert who is the Lead Nurse Practitioner Education Specialist for APEA.

“It includes fighting for the things that are right, or that are good, or that will make improvements for yourself, for your patients, and for your profession.”

Dr. Baldridge became involved in advocacy as an NP student in 2007, when she joined her state NP association with a goal of meeting NPs who could serve as preceptors. That decision was a catalyst for many volunteer and elected roles.

Among her many advocacy activities, Dr. Baldridge has served two terms as president of the Louisiana Association of Nurse Practitioners (LANP) and continues as a volunteer or appointed member of multiple boards and agencies focused on the delivery of healthcare in Louisiana.

Her work as a passionate advocate for nurse practitioners and patients will be recognized at the 2024 American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) annual conference in June, when she receives a 2024 State Award for Excellence for advocacy. She previously was honored with a State Award for Excellence in 2016, in recognition of her contributions in clinical practice.

You can be an advocate too

Dr. Baldridge considers advocacy a step most NPs can take naturally, especially when they tap into the principles that prompted them to enter nursing in the first place. She points to two statements made by Florence Nightingale as motivators:

“Rather, ten times, die in the surf, heralding the way to a new world, than stand idly on the shore.”

"Nursing is a progressive art such that to stand still is to go backward."

Ignited by motivation from the founder of the nursing profession, you may be wondering: What is actually involved in advocacy, and why should you incorporate it into your busy life?

Dr. Baldridge shared five reasons that will convince you it is a worthwhile — and necessary — endeavor.

1. Get involved to change the healthcare system.

“Access to care is a pressing issue,” Dr. Baldridge said. “Many patients don't have insurance coverage or have minimal insurance coverage, and they wait until their condition is almost beyond help. This is a strain on the healthcare system and obviously a strain on their health.

“Ultimately, this is why advocacy is important — we nurses are the grassroots,” she continued. “We are on the ground floor level, seeing the struggles that patients have obtaining access to care, getting the screenings that they need, purchasing their medication. Some people are doing all they can do to survive, and healthcare comes last.”

Nurse practitioners are key flag bearers for access to care and can be effective in bringing this need to lawmakers’ attention, Dr. Baldridge said.

2. Get involved to impact and protect your patients and community.

“Nurses and nurse practitioners have always advocated for patients as we work to get them what they need to feel better,” Dr. Baldridge said.

Even when nurse practitioners are advocating for professional issues including scope-of-practice protections, the work can produce improvements in patient care.

“In all efforts to improve ourselves or our profession, it's ultimately about the patient,” she said.

3. Get involved to advocate for the NP profession and NP practice authority.

“One of the most pressing reasons NPs should get involved in advocacy is that decisions are being made at the legislative level about our profession — and for our profession — without us at the table,” Dr. Baldridge said.

She urges all NPs to join a national organization representing NPs, as well as the association representing NPs in their state and/or region. It’s also essential to participate in state capitol days and other events involving lawmakers, sign up for alerts, and participate in calls to action, Dr. Baldridge said.

“You need to guide those decision makers,” she said. “Because if you don’t, it's going to be a legislator who has no knowledge of nurse practitioners and our scope of practice making laws that affect you.

“We are the learned authorities on our scope of practice,” she continued. “We know what will impact our practice and our patients. We have to be involved.”

(For more information on nurse practitioner scope of practice, see Dr. Baldridge’s blog on this topic here.)

4. Get involved to impact decision makers and their actions.

“It’s important to connect with legislators in your area for many reasons,” Dr. Baldridge said. “We're voters, and we live and vote in their area. So whether it's a healthcare-related issue we want them to understand or it's that you have kids who are in the school system and decisions are being made about education or the water system — those things all impact our lives and our health.

She recommends reaching out to legislators and other policy makers to get acquainted. During these conversations, offer to be their point of contact on healthcare issues.

“That way, when a bill comes up that impacts our practice or our patients, you've established a relationship with them and they're likely to reach out to you,” Dr. Baldridge said. “They really do want to make informed decisions. They want to hear from the people who are living and working in their district.”

When you have a relationship with a lawmaker, “they will be more likely to reach out to you and say, ‘Hey, I have this bill — tell me how it would impact you,’” she said. “Establishing relationships is extremely important in advocacy so that you will be top of mind as a resource.”

5. Get involved to enhance your professional growth.

The value of advocacy is not limited to your profession or your patients. In fact, Dr. Baldridge believes that advocating for yourself is equally important. This can be especially helpful in the early phases of NP practice.

“We know that role transition is difficult that first year in practice,” she said. “No matter how many years you've been a nurse, you're learning a new role and sometimes the employer is learning it too.”

She said new nurse practitioners may change jobs frequently as they navigate the frustrations that can occur in the search for the right NP fit. (For guidance on you first steps as an NP, see Dr. Baldridge’s video course, “Fundamentals of Entry Into Practice,” in the APEA CE Library.)

“This is one of the reasons I think advocacy at the individual level is so important,” Dr. Baldridge said. “It’s the ability to go to the employer and say, ‘You know what, that's not really a good plan. Can we talk about it and then work it out together?’”

Personal advocacy includes representing yourself to an employer to negotiate the salary, bonus, and benefits you consider appropriate, she said.

“This is advocacy at the individual level,” Dr. Baldridge said. “Sometimes it works great, sometimes it does not. But it's always worth a shot. Always.”

Dr. Baldridge said it’s important to understand that advocacy is broader than laws and policies. Advocacy in general encompasses countless issues and activities that aren’t ever subjected to a vote.

“Advocacy happens at multiple levels,” Dr. Baldridge said. “We tend to think about it happening only in capitol buildings — the state capitols and the federal capitol — but it happens at the individual level, and it happens at the systems level. We really need advocacy in all areas of life.”


Written by

APEA Staff