Ingredients to a Strong Nurse/Patient Relationship

There is a reason why nurses consistently rank among Gallup's poll of most trusted professionals. Experienced nurses realize that a solid relationship with patients is the foundation of good care. People are most vulnerable when they are patients and their sense of well-being and safety depends almost entirely on the quality of their nursing care. By putting your patients at ease and advising them that they are in competent hands, you ensure an effective nurse/patient relationship.


Recognizing professional care


The relationship between patients and nurses is a collaborative one. Several factors signal how well you and a patient are working together. Focusing on their needs above your own and having clear boundaries and expectations makes you most effective. It is your responsibility to balance necessary authority with attentiveness and respect for a patient's dignity and privacy. Being empathetic, patient, ethical, respectful and culturally sensitive demonstrates your high degree of professionalism. Effective nurses are also good listeners and strong advocates for their patients.


Building an effective relationship



Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to establish an effectual relationship with a patient. Recognizing everybody's right to dignified, competent care is the best starting point. When you slip into your professional role, remember the patient's needs always come before yours. Stereotyping is common at the outset of any relationship and goes both ways. It is essential that you lose yours when meeting a patient and then help them understand your individual humanity and professional status. Develop a team mentality with your patients to respect, trust, communicate and work together. Being genuine and treating people with empathy develops trust. By incorporating good listening skills, that trust is nurtured.


Barriers between nurses and patients


When you appear indifferent and detached, your patient is left feeling alienated, distrustful and fearful. This can sometimes have a profound influence on a patient's sense of well-being. It is why it is important for both prospective and experienced nurses to understand some of the barriers to a good nurse/patient relationship.

  • Your profession sometimes calls for a frenetic, even stressful pace. It can become easy to skimp on skills for building and maintaining your connection with patients.
  • Good nursing requires the sometimes difficult need to put your personal needs and problems beneath those of patients. Otherwise, you risk interfering with your ability to be genuine and empathetic.
  • Not setting boundaries clearly defining your relationship may confuse patients and make vital communication difficult.
  • Learning and using technology while meeting regulatory and administrative demands may pull you away from traditional bedside care and threaten to alienate your patient.
  • Inexperience can mar confidence and patients may easily detect your uncertainty. It is critical to make the most of your education, orientation and preceptor experience. Seeking help rather than fumbling through a task actually reassures patients of your competence and professionalism.
  • Nurses often need patients to perform disagreeable tasks such as swallowing a pill, walking when it hurts and talking when they don't want to. Patients are far more apt to cooperate if they trust you.



Photo Source: Flickr

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Tags: nurse/patient relationship, nursing

Charles R. Hooper, MSW

About Charles R. Hooper, MSW

With over 20 years experience as a medical social worker and a master's degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I have been honored to dedicate most of my professional life to service in health care. I have worked in multiple medical/nursing settings, including cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, trauma care and others. I also founded the medical social work program at a regional trauma center and a very busy emergency department. View all posts by Charles R. Hooper, MSW →