Nurses are a trusted part of care delivery. Because they spend so much one-on-one time, they get to know their patients in a way few others can. They answer questions for family and friends and are relied upon to be an advocate.
While monitoring patient data and physical improvements is an obvious part of the job, emotional and mental well-being is no less important. The De Souza Institute notes that psychosocial distress affects patient recovery and can contribute to physical symptoms like pain. Healthy emotional and mental states can improve outcomes, and nurses are in a unique position to help patients with challenges in these areas.
Nurses spend a significant amount of time with the patients in their care. Night shifts mean the nurse is there after visiting hours end, when a patient’s thoughts, demeanor and words may become a bit more negative than when they are with family members and friends.
Illness, injury, trauma or a terminal diagnosis can all cause setbacks to a patient’s psychosocial health. MedCrave specifies that patients may experience depression, anxiety, despair and disturbed body image while receiving care. Anyone dealing with adverse medical news can experience fear, helplessness, sadness and frustration, as reported by health organization Marie Curie. Patients can feel alone despite having a strong support network of family and friends.
How Nurses Can Help
The best thing a nurse can do is develop strong communication and assessment skills. Recognizing the indicators of a less-than-optimal psychosocial state allows the nurse to know when to intervene. Observation is a useful tool to interpret when a patient might want to talk about their thoughts and feelings about an injury or illness.
Some nurses may feel ill-equipped to have these kinds of discussions, not knowing how to lead a conversation on such topics. Taking a few minutes to ask questions and listen is an excellent way to identify what specific challenges each patient is facing.
Cultural sensitivity and an understanding of the traditions and spiritual practices of patients in the area can provide the nurse with information about priorities and taboos. Areas that have a high incidence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) require an insight into signals of distress or potential barriers to healing.
Enhancing your communication skills can help you navigate challenging discussions smoothly. Lamar University’s Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program includes an assessment of sociological, psychological, cultural and familial factors in treatment as well as a review of community care and communication skills. Starting a conversation, listening to patients and understanding their personal values assists the nurse in providing emotional support.
Some topics and concerns that come up during discussions with patients and their friends and family will be outside the scope of your work. Resources within your organization, community and state can assist everyone on the patient’s care team.
Emotional Support and Patient Outcomes
Studies have been conducted to assess the effects of emotional support on patient outcomes. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reported on a 2015 study monitoring patients electing to have total hip or knee arthroplasty to alleviate arthritis. The study found that those who received psychological support reached mobility objectives at an average of 1.2 days sooner than the control group.
Cost effectiveness is paramount for healthcare facilities and insurance companies. Addressing psychosocial aspects of patient health can help reduce the length of stay after procedures and treatments. Healthy minds and happy hearts have been proven to contribute to recovery. An interested, friendly nurse can nurture emotional and mental health while lending an ear and addressing any situations or concerns that may arise. That extra bit of care also contributes to job satisfaction and can help nurses notice when a patient needs help.
Learn more Lamar University’s online RN to BSN program.
De Souza Institute: Providing Emotional Care to Our Patients: Not Enough Time? Or, Too Little Skill?
MedCrave: Psycho Social Nursing Care for Better Patient Outcome
Marie Curie: Providing Emotional Care
NCBI: Effectiveness of Psychological Support in Patients Undergoing Primary Total Hip or Knee Arthroplasty: A Controlled Cohort Study