By Richard Cowling, PhD, APRN-BC, AHN-BC, FAAN, vice president of academic affairs at Chamberlain College of Nursing
(Content courtesy of Chamberlain College of Nursing)
Throughout my tenure as a nurse, I’ve learned that there is no other profession that requires the type of intimate bond we form with those in our care. This strong connection to the patients we serve inspired me to look beyond the physiological symptoms and incorporate the broader context of the patient’s life story into my care.
I once cared for a patient who sought help for depression and dealt with a childhood of abuse and trauma. She had never shared her backgrounds with other healthcare professionals, presumably because they were solely focused on the physiological side of her condition.
“The medication helps me feel better, but it doesn’t deal with the pain I endured as a child,” she confided in me.
This patient’s story illustrates the critical importance of a shift towards person-centered care — care which enables a nurse to address the condition while appreciating and using the spirit and wholeness of the patient’s life and story.
Person-centered care is the elevated ally of patient-centered care. Both forms of care require a nurse to recognize a patient’s health problems as opposed to focusing strictly on a diagnosis, but there is a distinct difference. While patient-centered care generally focuses on interactions during specific visits and the management of diseases, person-centered care takes a deeper dive into building a relationship.
In delivering patient-centered care, nurses rely on knowledge of the patient that accrues over time, not just within one visit. Nurses engaged in this approach honor the importance of keeping the individual at the center of the care-planning and decision-making process, actively listening and observing, so they can adapt to each patient’s specific needs and empower patients to be active decision makers in their own healthcare.
The Journal for Nurses in Professional Development characterizes this type of care as the art of nursing — a combination of compassionate concern, openness, physical availability and empathetic attention. This person-centered approach to care has proven to be an effective approach in treating patients. In fact, a 2014 study shows that when nurses combined both the art and science of care, they fostered stronger relationships with patients and encouraged them to be more proactive with their care plans.
As the healthcare landscape evolves, this connection between nurse and patient is the key to improving patient care. Broader implementation of this approach will be crucial, given the U.S. Census Bureau projects the population of Americans age 65 and older will more than double by 2060. A growing, aging population and diagnosis requests for chronic and terminal illnesses mean care plans that look at the larger context of a patient’s life will be needed.
Now more than ever, the nursing profession is shifting from a traditional construct of care, focused on treating physiological symptoms and clinical diagnosis, toward embodying the art of nursing, incorporating the human connection between nurse and patient. Equipped with patient knowledge and the willingness to listen and learn about a person’s background, fears and hopes, nurses are uniquely positioned to positively impact a patient’s life in more ways than one.
Incorporating patient-centered care, by establishing a trusting relationship between a patient and a nurse, is essential for creating individualized care plans that can lead to better outcomes and patient satisfaction. The potential impact we can make on one life is astonishing.
When you consider the number of patients that each of us connect with daily, the result is enormously profound.