Among the fulfilling aspects of a career in nursing is the opportunity to offer physical and emotional support to patients and families in situations that range from joyful to tragic. Patients’ emotions can be unpredictable during times of illness, prompting a range of moods including anger, hostility, sadness and depression. It is imperative that nurses not take such feelings or actions personally but rather always respond in a professional manner that supports the goal of optimal patient care.
Nurses who are confident in their knowledge base, clinical techniques and communication skills likely will be able to instill trust and hope in patients coping with stress in an unfamiliar and hectic healthcare environment. By exhibiting a combination of caring and competence, a nurse can make a difference in a patient’s care.
How to Improve Patient Care
Nurses often are the first members of the healthcare team to recognize changes in a patient’s physical symptoms and conditions. When this occurs, it’s necessary to reassure the patient and also ensure that appropriate steps are taken to control the situation.
There are many techniques that nurses may utilize to improve their patients’ care. A patient who feels that the nurse is caring, honest and easy to communicate with may be more likely to engage in a relationship built on trust. This, in turn, can help the patient to be more forthcoming with important health and personal information, as well as more amenable to prescribed therapies and treatments. Some other skills used by nurses to improve patient care include:
- Treating the patient as an individual rather than as a diagnosis or number
- Empowering the patient to make choices and decisions in order to instill a sense of control over medical issues and personal health
- Showing compassion and helping to alleviate fear and anxiety by maintaining a calm presence, answering questions and addressing concerns
- Treating the patient with dignity and respect and exhibiting an awareness of age, gender, racial, cultural and religious differences
- Expressing empathy toward patients in an attempt to understand what they are experiencing
- Communicating therapeutically by the use of touch, making eye contact, speaking directly to the patient, exhibiting a calm and unhurried manner, allowing time to respond to questions and responding appropriately to body language.
Historically, the nursing profession has been held in high esteem by the public. According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 84% of Americans rate the honesty and ethics of nurses as high or very high. Nurses have topped that annual poll almost every year for more than a decade.
In large part, the exceptional reputation of nurses is based on the caring and compassion they exhibit and the difference they make in their patients’ care.