Today, patients have high expectations. Rather than passively receive medical care, they want to participate in decisions regarding tests, treatment, medications, procedures, and even home care. The nurse, a core member of the care team, plays a vital role in this kind of patient-centered care.
As an ABSN student, you will encounter patient-centered care from the beginning of your training. Nursing courses routinely teach this as the modern way to care for the ill and the elderly.
Students in ABSN programs in Illinois, for example, learn about adult health, family health and complex care, and all of them are patient centric. Underlying each module is that every decision and every action must be made with the participation of the patient and their family whenever possible.
What is patient-centered care?
The term patient-centered care, or PCC, can be attributed to Carl Rogers, a psychologist, who recommended it for psychotherapy treatment as far back as the 1940s.
He advocated that rather than view patients as flawed human beings with behavioral problems that requireexpert intervention, each person should be identified as an individual with the potential to grow and change.
According to Rodgers, human beings are like other organisms in that they strive for balance and order, and they evolve toward greater complexity.
The Rogerian theory proposed that therapists should learn to recognize and foster human potential to facilitate healing. Rather than relying on their knowledge as “experts,” psychotherapists should follow the client’s lead, only offering support, guidance, and structure so that the patient should realize their goals.
Over time, other branches of medicine have realized the value of this approach to patient care. It is now part of mainstream medicine, and although it has been redefined, the original elements remain the same.
Today, the practice is about knowing the patient beyond their immediate health care issues. It is the job of the caregivers to know not just what their patients are suffering from, but their social environment, their family and friends and their employment so that they can formulate comprehensive care plans that address all their needs.
They must strive to build trusting relationships and be genuine, remaining compassionate and empathetic at all times. The objective is to treat the patient with respect and dignity and put them at the center of all decisions that are made regarding their care.
Elements of patient-centered care in nursing
Students of ABSN programs in Illinois may come across slightly varying definitions of PCC during their instruction but they all share certain common elements:
- The institution’s values, including its mission, vision and goals are designed with the patient at the forefront
- Care provided to each patient is collaborative and coordinated and it is accessible. In other words, it is provided in the right place at the right time.
- All care is aligned toward physical and emotional well-being.
- Caregivers must respect the patient’s values and cultural traditions as well as their socioeconomic conditions.
- Their family should be part of the care team and be involved in making decisions. Their physical presence in the care setting is encouraged and should be facilitated as much as possible.
- Information is shared in time, allowing the patient and his or her family to ask questions and confer so that they can make informed decisions.
Why is patient-centered care important?
The main aim of this care is to improve the well-being of the patient rather than the population. As it so happens, by focusing on providing the best type of care to the individual, the population benefits and tends to enjoy better health anyway.
A good example of this is Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. It was aimed at an overhaul of healthcare delivery across the American population but one of the things it sought to embrace was PCC. It acknowledged that improving individual patient care was an effective way to deliver better healthcare to all Americans.
According to one article about how the Affordable Care Act has affected healthcare in the last decade, the act emphasized the delivery of higher quality patient care as a way to improve healthcare delivery, lower costs and treat patients more effectively.
Even before Obamacare was passed in Congress, PCC was a well-recognized practice. Its benefits include:
- Better outcomes for patients are the top advantage of this kind of care. Patients tend to get better faster, require less medication, and fewer mistakes are made when they are involved in making decisions.
- Patient-centered care has been associated with fewer visits to the ER. This is of great importance to the patient, especially if he doesn’t have sufficient medical coverage.
- It lowers costs for the healthcare facility and reduces strain on the healthcare system as a whole.
- Healthcare resources tend to go further when PCC is utilized.
- Patients record higher levels of satisfaction. Because they can participate in their care plans and share their expectations with caregivers, they receive the kind of care they are happy with.
- Institutions have improved their reputation by providing PCC. Rather than seeing patients as people who are seeking treatment, they perceive them as consumers who expect a certain level of care. The internet, and particularly social media, has made it easy for recipients of medical care to share experiences with their communities and the wider world, and this has forced many institutions to re-evaluate their approach to patient care.
- Staff are motivated and report higher levels of job satisfaction. Many nurses and doctors join the profession because they have a genuine interest in helping people. A patient-centered approach helps heal patients faster and they record higher levels of satisfaction with their treatment. This in turn motivates those caring for them and makes them want to work even harder to provide better care in the future.
What is the role of the nurse in providing patient-centered care?
Several studies have shown that patient’s perception of their care is highly influenced by the quality of nursing care they receive.
Whatever career path they take, nurses are more than caregivers. Within the hospital or nursing home, they have the most contact with the ill. They are on the frontline and are more likely to know about a patient’s hopes, worries and fears, their families and friends, and even where they work and how it affects their health.
Within institutions that adopt PCC, nurses are “warriors.” They are in a position to not just provide care, but to provide valuable insights into what is needed to implement it.
If a hospital, clinic, hospice or nursing home wants to excel in providing patient-centered care it must involve its nurses. They need to be part of the decision-making process because of all caregivers, they are the ones who spend the most time with patients.
It is no wonder that so many nursing courses now emphasize patient-centered care. Those who are enrolled in ABSN programs in Illinois and elsewhere are in demand because employers value those that understand the need to put the patient first at all times.
Hospital administrators need to understand that although nurses play a vital role in delivering PCC, they are not solely responsible for it. They should work in conjunction with other caregivers and hospital management to deliver the highest level of care for everyone who comes through their doors.
Examples of patient-centered care provided by nurses
The doctor’s office
Telehealth is becoming mainstream in America as institutions seek to make life easy for those in their care.
Today, patients can book an appointment through a portal from anywhere, unlike in the past when they had to either call or pay a visit to set up a convenient time to get treatment. This is a notable example of patient-centric care.
When a patient arrives for their appointment, they are met by a nurse who seeks, with empathy and compassion, to get a preliminary diagnosis for the doctor.
After noting down the patient’s symptoms, they talk to them about what they think could be the cause. The nurse takes the patient’s lead and tries to gain as much information as possible so that by the time the doctor comes into the picture, they can make a knowledgeable diagnosis.
The doctor and nurse work together to provide referrals to other caregivers who can help find solutions.
For example, If a young mother complains of insomnia, the doctor may prescribe sleeping pills, but they will aim to understand the root cause so that they can offer a permanent solution.
Could it be that she is overwhelmed by her young family? If that is the case, she will be referred to a family services professional who can provide workable solutions that can be implemented right away.
If she stays awake at night worried about finances, the nurse can refer her to a financial counselor who can help her come up with alternative strategies to manage her money.
The nurse takes time to discuss the patient’s condition, answer questions and provide insights. Finally, they fill out the patient form and upload it to their portal where they can access it at any time.
In the hospital
There are numerous examples of patient-centered care in hospitals. When patients arrive, they are seen by a triage nurse who gets a comprehensive patient history in addition to a preliminary diagnosis. When they are seen by the doctor, he/she considers all the information they have received from the nurse before making a diagnosis, ordering tests and writing prescriptions.
If the patient is admitted, the nurse will engage them even further, encouraging them to talk about themselves, their worries, their emotional state and other factors that may contribute to their condition.
The patient can identify who can visit them and when they should come. If there is someone outside their immediate family who they feel should be close by, they have the option to call them and ask them to be part of their care team.
The nurse and the doctor take time to discuss the patient’s condition together with him, and they answer questions and explain their proposed methods of treatment. They allow the patient to give feedback about the proposals and welcome any input he may have about how his illness should be treated.
They also seek feedback on the overall care of the patient from other members of the hospital staff and address any complaints he may have.
The patient’s family and friends are allowed to contribute to their care. They are invited to meetings to discuss diagnoses and plans and asked to share any worries, concerns, or ideas they may have about how their loved one should be cared for.
Another good example of patient-centered care in hospitals is in maternity wards. Today, many have been built to accommodate the family of the new mother. They are encouraged to bond with the newborn and are taught coping strategies they can use once they get home.
In nursing homes
The rising number of baby boomers in America has put a strain on nursing staff across the country, but the quality of care that they receive in nursing homes has improved. The elderly expects patient-centered care from their nurses and other caregivers.
When caring for the elderly nurses need to realize that their beliefs are informed by a different age. They must respect values that elders hold dear and aim to incorporate them into daily interactions.
Communication is another way that nurses play a role in patient-centered care for the elderly. Many often feel lonely especially if they don’t have close family that visits often.
The nurse must form a bond with these patients and communicate with them, letting them know that although they may not see their loved ones frequently, they have someone who cares for them and is willing to spend a few minutes each day chatting and catching up.
Nurses must listen to their concerns, especially as regards their care, and work together with other staff within the home to address them.
How nurses can become patient-centered carer’s
Enrolling in a relevant degree will give you an excellent foundation in how to be a patient-centered nurse. Students of ABSN programs in Illinois, for example, learn the necessary skills to care for chronic patients and those at the end of their lives.
They learn family-focused nursing and how a patient’s environment influences their outcomes. They are also taught the ethics of patient care, as well as how they can be empathetic and compassionate nurses.
These are important lessons, but as a student nurse, or a nurse who is starting in the profession, there are certain things you can do to polish your patient-centered nursing skills:
Seek employment in places that value this type of care
If you work within a setting where the patient is always the priority, you will become a better nurse. You get a deep understanding of the kind of culture that is needed to deliver the best care.
Nurses also get to see the positive impact that this kind of care has on patient outcomes.
Be a good listener
This is one of the basic skills that is required of nurses. When you encounter patients, they will want to talk to you about their families, work and friends. These may seem irrelevant but may have a lot to do with the patient’s illness.
By listening, you will learn how to pick out the important from the unimportant and select what may be useful for treatment so that you can get a better outcome for your patient.
Learn to see the bigger picture
Unimportant details can inform nurses and doctors as to the condition of a patient. A mundane complaint may lead you to a long-sought-after diagnosis.
Imagine a patient comes in several times complaining about his hearing aids. You check them and find out they work as they should, but the patient is adamant that something is wrong.
The bigger picture may involve you looking at what may be causing interference. Cellphones, for example, are famous for causing high-pitched whistling. If the patient frequently uses their phone, it may be the source of the problem, and the simple solution would be to use it only when necessary.
If you don’t find answers within the obvious context, it helps to look at the bigger picture because that is where the solution may lie. Talk to the patient about their lives, their work, their homes and neighborhoods, and listen to what they tell you.
Be a critical thinker
You should always ask yourself how you can make your patients more comfortable with what you have at hand. Your facility may not have the latest equipment, but there are certain things you can do with the available equipment to ease their pain and anguish. Nurses who look for extraordinary solutions to ordinary problems are valued by employers and loved by patients.
Nurses play a vital role in patient-centered care. Whether in a hospital, nursing home or doctor’s office, they have the highest number of interactions with those who come in seeking treatment. This puts them in a unique position to deliver tailored care that addresses each patient’s unique problems.
The best nursing courses are designed to teach nurses how to deliver patient-centric care. Whether you enroll in ABSN programs in Illinois or any other highly regarded nursing school, you will learn the essentials of patient-centered care that you can use as soon you get employed.