Low-income populations face inequalities that impact their health and well-being. Among the few identified challenges include a lack of affordable housing, limited education, financial problems, and issues with healthcare access. Nurses, through advocacy, can help to address some of these issues to better improve the health of low-income communities (Porche, 2023). Engaging in advocacy requires the nurse to understand the core values of the profession and how professional ethical standards apply during the advocacy process.
Professional values in nursing represent established behavior that forms the basis for making healthcare decisions. The core values of the profession that align with the area of advocacy may include respect for human dignity, altruism, integrity, diversity, and social justice (American Nurses Association, 2015a). For example, nurses must respect their patients and consider their emotions about the situation they face. Issues with inequality leading to challenges in accessing healthcare services require the nurse to fight for the rights of patients and value their health as well. Altruism is a value that drives nurses to advocate for the fair treatment of patients and provide care outside the typical duties of bedside nursing.
Social justice is the most important nursing value that relates to the issue of healthcare among low-income communities. This value deals with the distribution of healthcare services and embracing equality among all patients (American Nurses Association, 2015a). This professional value requires the nurse to listen to the needs of patients and advocate for their rights when necessary. Apart from the values guiding nursing practice, professional ethical standards also define how nurses should behave while caring for patients. For example, ethical standard 3 requires the nurse to promote, advocate for, and protect the rights of patients (American Nurses Association, 2015b). Provision 7 also requires the nurse to advance the profession through research and the generation of nursing and healthcare policies (American Nurses Association, 2015b). These ethical values indicate that nurses have a role in improving the health of populations through advocacy and involvement in policy matters.
Nursing values and ethics identify advocacy as an important part of care delivery. Advocacy is important because it gives patients and their families direct and customized assistance that helps them navigate the healthcare system. It involves things like helping patients access health care, educating patients to make informed decisions, and reaching political heights that have a great impact on healthcare today (Dawes, 2020). Additionally, professional values and ethics put advocacy in front because it represents professional development in nursing. Nurses are required to make active contributions to support the advancement of the profession and the health of the people through advocacy.
Law, ethics, and politics have a lot to do with issues of healthcare access among low-income areas. For example, politics involves the allocation of resources like capital which influence affordable housing, transport, and access to healthcare. Laws that govern the State or Federal distribution of resources can greatly influence how low-income people manage their health (Dawes, 2020). Things like healthcare insurance are influenced by the law and they define how marginalized communities and poor families access healthcare services. Medicaid and CHIP coverage are among the laws that provide free or low-cost health insurance to millions of Americans. Among the three areas of law, ethics, and politics, I believe politics has the greatest influence on the health of low-income communities. Increasing the political representation of these communities and advocacy by healthcare professionals can have a huge impact on healthcare access and the improvement of their health outcomes.
American Nurses Association. (2015a). Chapter 1. Social contract theory: This profession called “nursing,” and its rights, privileges, and obligations. In Guide to nursing’s social policy statement Links to an external site.(pp. 1–28). https://www.nursingworld.org/~4af892/globalassets/catalog/sample-chapters/guide-to-nursings-social-policy-statement.pdf
American Nurses Association. (2015b). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretative statements Links to an external site.. https://www.nursingworld.org/coe-view-only
Dawes, D. E. (2020). The political determinants of health. Johns Hopkins University Press. Chapter 2, “Setting the Precedent: America’s Attempts to Address the Political Determinants of Health Inequalities” (pp. 18–40)
Porche, D. J. (2023). Health policy: Applications for nurses and other healthcare professionals (3rd ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning. Chapter 16, “Policy, Law, and Politics: Ethical Perspective” (pp. 239–254)
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