Advocacy is commonly understood as a core component of a nurse’s professional identity. In response to questions such as what is a nurse, and what do nurses do, it is not uncommon to hear nurses describe themselves as patients’ advocates. For many practicing nurses, advocacy has come to be understood as, and in some ways equated with, attention to patients’ safety and protecting patients from harm.

Although safety and protection certainly are important concerns of nurses, I want to highlight some of the problems with this view of advocacy and describe some of the difficulties that follow when nurses take up the role of advocate in a critical care setting where advocacy is seen as primarily concerned with protection. In contrast to this view of advocacy, I want to explore a stand on good practice that recognizes and engages...

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