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How to build a therapeutic nurses-patient relationship?

A nurse and an elderly patient read the directions on a medicine bottle.

How can nurses build a positive relationship with patients?

Nursing practise revolves around the therapeutic nurse-patient relationship. When established properly, the relationship benefits a patient's health and well-being while also making nurses feel valued. Moreover, nurses always say that connecting with patients is what makes their long days worthwhile. Even for agency nursing staff who work at healthcare facilities on a temporary basis, developing a rapport with patients will make their job easier. 

No matter what population nurses are working with, finding a way to bridge the gap and connect with patients makes your job easier and more satisfying for the patients. 

For all these reasons, nurses are accountable for establishing and maintaining therapeutic relationships with their patients, including the establishment and maintenance of appropriate professional boundaries. It is also important to understand that this relationship continues as long as the patient requires nursing care. This means that regardless of how long or short the nursing care time span is, a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship is formed. 

What are the primary stages of the nurse-patient relationship? 

The main goal of a relationship between a therapeutic nurse and a patient is to improve the patient's health and well-being. Hildegard E. Peplau was the first to formally theorise the phases of the nurse-patient relationship, identifying three major stages. The stages are as follows: 

Orientation stage

When a patient seeks assistance and adjusts to new circumstances, the orientation stage begins. When the nurse first meets the patient, she or he enters this stage to learn about their situation and priorities for care. This stage is usually initiated when care is started. 

When entering this phase, it's important to treat the patient with respect the first time you meet them. Some of the ways a nurse can make sure a good first impression is made are by how she talks to the patient, how she treats the patient's culture, and by using the patient's preferred name. 

Working/Exploration/Identification stage 

Most of the time a nurse spends with a patient will be during the working phase. During this time, the nurse will do physical assessments, give medications or other therapeutic care, and work on the care plan. This will help the patient get to know his or her nurse and understand that he or she is there to teach and help. As a result, patients will feel more comfortable asking for help and communicating with their nurse about any concerns they may have. 

Termination/Resolution stage 

The termination phase is where the patient is in the process of being discharged or discontinuing treatment. In this stage, nurses are expected to review the patient record, identify progress, and fill any educational gaps or unmet needs. At this point, the nursing phase is considered complete, and the patient is expected to continue on their own. 

How to build a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship? 

Here are some of the ways in which a strong therapeutic nurse-patient relationship can be built. 

1. Spend time getting to know the patient 

A nurse should understand that no patient wants to feel rushed through an appointment; instead, they want to be addressed as an individual rather than a medical condition. Also, introductions are important, so don't forget to say who you are and remember your patient's name. It's best to call them by their first name. 

2. Always listen 

Sometimes patients simply need someone to listen to their worries or concerns. This can help spark discussions about their options, their plan of care, and whether they need to see other specialists for follow-up appointments. Doctors rarely have time to talk for long periods of time, so as a nurse, your patients will appreciate it if you take a few extra minutes to listen to their concerns and guide them. 

3. Establish trust 

Trust is crucial to a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship. It will be fragile at first, but with constant effort, a nurse can gain the trust of a patient. 

4. Showing respect 

Each patient should be treated with respect regardless of their socio-economic status, personal attributes, or the nature of their health problems. It is critical for a nurse to understand that giving respect means acknowledging that every individual has inherent dignity, worth, and uniqueness. 

5. Professional intimacy

When a nurse provides intimate care activities to their patients, such as bathing or other personal hygiene, it creates professional closeness. Professional intimacy can also include having access to psychological, spiritual, and social elements identified in patients' treatment plans. 

6. Empathy 

A nurse shows empathy by understanding, validating, and confirming what the healthcare experience means to the patient. Nurses must ensure that they maintain an appropriate emotional distance from the patient to ensure objectivity and an appropriate professional response. 

7. Power 

The nurse-patient relationship is one of unequal power. The nurse has more authority and influence in the healthcare system, access to confidential information, and the ability to advocate for the patient. It is considered as abuse when a nurse misuses this power and break the trust build. 

8. Staying positive and realistic 

Nurses care for patients in a broad spectrum of situations. For example, a cardiac nurse will have a different approach than a psychiatric nurse. For a nurse, it is vital to keep a positive outlook, regardless of the circumstances. A nurse's attitude can have a significant impact on a patient's perspective and morale. 

What are the benefits of a positive nurse-patient relationship? 

Studies show that both nurses and patients benefit from a therapeutic relationship, as nurses feel valued and experience greater satisfaction. It can also be noted that a good nurse-patient relationship will help reduce the length of hospital stays as well as improve the quality of care and patient satisfaction. 

A positive nurse-patient relationship improves the patient's physical, mental, and emotional health. Nurses can assist patients in reducing anxiety, gaining trust, improving the overall care experience, and even improving their outcome. This will also benefit the healthcare facility by assisting in the development of the organization's reputation. 

For nurses, they can have the satisfaction of having helped another human being. The nurses feel valued and considered when they build a mutually beneficial relationship. The mental satisfaction of having a patient relieved after being cured of a disease is an added benefit for nurses. 

Nurses Group is a nursing staffing agency based in Yeovil with offices all over the UK. We recognise the significance of developing a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship. As a result, we train our agency nurses to build rapport with the patients they care for and gain trust in order to provide better care. 

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