How nurses enhance the patient experience

In recent years, there has been a shift towards patient-centered care. This means that patients’ needs are in sharp focus, and the relationship between the providers and recipients of care is more of a partnership than ever before. Due to their close relationship with patients, nurses play a key role in delivering this type of quality care and contributing to an ever-improving patient experience.

Today, we will discuss the ways that nurses enhance the patient experience and take a close look at how nurses contribute to patient-centered care on an everyday basis. If you’re a nurse, or thinking of pursuing a career in this field, you’ll be interested to know that we’ll also discuss how you can enhance your skills to offer the best care to your patients. Let’s get started by reviewing the definition of patient-centered care.

What is patient-centered care?

Put simply, patient-centered care is exactly as the phrase suggests — it’s about putting the patient, their needs and their health goals right at the heart of their care and the decisions around it. In addition, patients and the healthcare professionals who deliver their care work in partnership, with additional input from patients’ family members, supporters or advocates.

There is also an emphasis on delivering care in a holistic manner, so it’s not only about addressing the immediate health needs of the patient but also involves responding to their emotional, cultural and spiritual requirements too. This means that the patient and their family members or carers take part in decisions about their care and help to devise a care plan. It also means that the patient’s cultural or spiritual needs are respected. In fact, caregivers take a proactive stance in understanding what these are and providing the practical and emotional support to fulfil them.

Patient-centered care is also about communicating clearly and sharing information so that the patient and their supporters can contribute to decisions about their care and understand what their experience is likely to be.

It’s good to know that there are many benefits to patient-centered care. An article exploring patient-centered care published in the NEJM Catalyst journal, set out some of the benefits of this approach, which are summarized here:

  • A better experience for patients.
  • Improved health outcomes.
  • Better satisfaction scores.
  • Enhanced reputation of the healthcare provider.
  • Improved productivity and staff morale.
  • A more efficient healthcare system since outcomes are enhanced.

How do nurses contribute to patient-centered care?

Nurses are in the perfect position to contribute significantly to patient-centered care thanks to their already close relationship with patients and frequent interactions with them. In fact, you could say they are at the very frontline of patient care and are an essential part of the toolkit for healthcare delivery.

These are some of the ways nurses contribute to patient-centered care every day:

By communicating clearly

One of the key elements of patient-centered care is communication. Under this model, nurses communicate clearly with patients about the care they are delivering, explaining the processes and what the likely outcome will be.

If there are difficulties in communication, for example if the nurse and patient do not speak the same language, the nurse will know how to engage an interpreter to help eliminate the language barrier. If communication is difficult for other reasons, for example if the patient has dementia and cannot articulate their thoughts and feelings, under patient-centered care, nurses will understand how to communicate simply and patiently.

Communication also includes updating family members or other supporters nominated by the patient about their status and supporting communication with them.

By empowering patients and their supporters

A nurse who adopts a patient-centered stance will understand that patients and their supporters, whether these are family members, friends, advocates or other healthcare professionals, should be included in decisions and goal setting around their care.

This means that they take the time to explain the treatment offered and encourage patients to take an active part in their care. They will also follow up with the patient and take time to understand how a treatment or therapy has worked for them, encouraging them to provide feedback to other healthcare professionals involved in their care.

It also means that nurses have a role as a facilitator. For example, they may enable the participation of family members in a patient’s care plan by arranging a time for them to come onto the ward and meet the healthcare staff involved in their loved one’s care, giving them the chance to contribute ideas.

By taking a holistic approach

A patient-centered nurse understands that treating a patient is not just about treating the physical issue that needs addressing but is also about seeing them as a whole person and looking at the sum of their physical, mental, emotional and cultural needs. They will take the time to understand their patients’ background and their overall physical and mental status and ask about any additional needs that they may have.

This could include complex health needs or long-term conditions, such as diabetes, cancer or Parkinson’s disease, which can mean that the patient’s treatment will need to be carefully coordinated with other aspects of their care.

When special requirements are identified, for example a special diet in line with their religious beliefs, nurses will know how to arrange for this need to be fulfilled and ensure that the patient has everything they require to feel comfortable in practicing their beliefs or cultural practices.

By offering a welcoming environment

Nurses who take pride in their working environment and ensure that it meets patients’ needs are met contribute significantly to patient-centered care. This means ensuring that the ward where patients are cared for is clean, tidy, well-ordered, signposted and comfortable. It is also reflected in small gestures, such as ensuring that patients have access to water — so that not only is it provided but is within easy reach of patients so they can help themselves independently.

Nurses who work from a patient-centered approach will also make anyone visiting the ward, whether it’s other healthcare professionals or family members, feel welcomed with simple actions such as acknowledging them with a smile and directing them to the correct place.

It’s this combination of the overall organization of the ward and the small, daily interactions that add up to a welcoming and comfortable environment for patients and their supporters. This approach has a lasting impact on how patients perceive the quality of the care they receive. These are just a few ways that nurses contribute to providing a patient experience that’s focused on their needs and with their health goals in mind.

What strategies do nurses use to enhance the overall patient experience?

Nurses who have a deep and committed interest in enhancing the overall patient experience may wish to step into a leadership role to ensure that strategies are devised and implemented to make this a reality. Their starting strategy could be to embark on a program of study that will give them the tools and confidence they need to take on this kind of role.

From there, they can apply for positions that have a special focus on improving the patient experience, such as nurse educator or clinical nurse leader. In these roles they can help devise strategies and policies to ensure that the patient experience is subject to continuous improvement.

These strategies might include:

  • Rolling out educational programs to ensure that the next generation of nurses understand the significance of patient-centered care.
  • Writing policies that emphasize the importance of patient-centered care in their establishment and setting out the steps to achieve this.
  • Taking on a mentoring role to more junior nurses, leading by example.
  • Leading on surveys and research projects to measure patient satisfaction, understand the patient experience and identify areas for improvement.

How can I enhance my nursing skills to offer the best patient experience?

Enrolling in a program of study that deepens awareness of patient-centered care and prepares candidates for leadership roles focusing on improving the patient experience is a great place to start.

If you’re already working in healthcare, you could benefit from studying for an additional qualification to give you the nursing tools you need to reach these goals. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is ideal for candidates who wish to take their practice further and work towards the goal of improving the patient experience. MSN programs offered by reputable institutions such as Spring Arbor University are perfect for anyone who is already a busy professional as they are delivered online and allow you to work at your own pace and in a location of your choice.

This doesn’t mean that you are on your own. A student success coach will work alongside faculty members to support you in achieving your academic goals. An online MSN program, such as the course offered by Spring Arbor, will equip you with the skills and knowledge to take your career to the next level, with an overarching goal of improving the patient experience, care and outcomes for a better healthcare future.

Enhancing healthcare for the future

It’s clear that nurses have an essential role to play in providing patient-centered care and improving the overall patient experience.

Through positive interactions with patients, nurses can make a world of difference to patients and the healthcare environment.

If you are working as a nurse and wholeheartedly believe that patient-centered care is the only way forward, then why not consider studying for an additional qualification to allow you to take on a leadership role? This means that not only will you be delivering the best patient care on the frontline but will be ensuring that healthcare is enhanced and improved for the future.

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