Like the word “nurse,” the word “advocate” is both a verb and a noun. It suggests that the person taking the action embodies it. This is true for both words, and the shared trait is fitting because “nurse” and “advocate” are so closely tied. In fact, the American Nurses Association (ANA) refers to advocacy as a pillar of nursing. Regardless of their practice area, ANA states that nurses “instinctively advocate for their patients, in their workplaces, and in their communities; but legislative and political advocacy is no less important to advancing the profession and patient care.”
This issue of ForwardNursing is dedicated to nurse advocacy and the breadth of circumstances in which nurses act on behalf of individuals, families, communities, populations, and health care providers themselves. When you read these articles about students, faculty, staff, and alumni from the School of Nursing, you will recognize that “advocate”—as an identity and as an action—is a core competency of our profession. As such, it must be an ongoing part of the formal and informal student learning experience; and it is at the UW–Madison School of Nursing.
Beyond our curricula, students in the School learn from and collaborate with faculty, staff, peers, mentors, and our alumni who conduct research and scholarship, improve access to health care, and provide important outreach. Through this, our students begin to identify where their voices are needed in the profession and society and internalize the social mandate to respond accordingly through research, education, practice, and policy.
Advocacy is a common thread in nursing during all times and circumstances, but its urgency was heightened in the past year. As the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racial inequality further exposed social determinants and created a disparate burden on underserved communities and populations, nurses responded. With the availability of vaccines, nurses have acted to increase education and delivery, often to those who face the greatest barriers to vaccination. In addition, a need for advocacy on behalf of nurses themselves—a need that predated the pandemic—has persisted to crisis levels.
Before, during, and after the pandemic, nurses seek to understand and intervene to mitigate health disparities where they are rooted. Among the things we know about nursing in the post-pandemic world is that systemic and societal recovery will be a long and uncertain road. However, with the right focus and interprofessional collaboration, it could have the potential to lead us to more sustainable and equitable systems of health care delivery. It is a part of the mission and nearly 100-year legacy for the School of Nursing to develop leaders who address the complex health needs of society. I am proud and confident that our faculty and graduates are prepared to lead in this future of nursing. Badger nurses will change lives as advocates for this transformation.
Linda D. Scott