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Patient-Centered Nursing Through an Online RN to BSN Program

The nation’s health system has changed dramatically in recent decades, creating the need for new care delivery strategies. One of these strategies is patient-centered care, which places the patient’s needs and values at the center of the process. Because nurses usually have the most intimate knowledge of patients, they are in a prime position to provide patient-centered nursing care.

To implement effective patient-centered care, nurses develop a number of skills, including decision-making, leadership and communication. A Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program can help nurses prepare for this essential role.

A Rapidly Changing Health System Requires New Strategies

In its report “Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century,” the Institute of Medicine (renamed National Academy of Medicine [NAM] in 2015) described a cumbersome, disorganized, overworked system.

These findings are not a reflection of the people working within the system, but rather are the product of an evolving population. For one, more Americans have chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes, according to “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” another IOM report. There are more Americans in the system as a result of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The growing number of people over 65 is also increasing the number of patients in the healthcare system.

To help address these deficiencies, “Crossing the Quality Chasm” calls for a system that is safe, effective, timely, efficient, equitable and patient-centered.

Defining Patient-Centered Nursing and How Nurses Can Improve in This Area

The IOM defines patient-centered care as “respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.” While this definition is a good starting point, it does not show the difficulties of patient-centered care.

To better determine how patients define optimal care, Harvard Medical School researchers, on behalf of the Picker Institute and The Commonwealth Fund, interviewed patients, their caregivers, physicians and hospital staff. Their findings resulted in eight “Principles of Patient-Centered Care,” which nurses can use as guidelines for providing patient-centered nursing care.

  • Respecting a patient’s values, preferences and needs: Treating patients as individuals, including them in decision-making processes, and respecting their cultural needs.
  • Coordinating and integrating clinical, front-line and ancillary care: This can help alleviate a patient’s sense of powerlessness.
  • Informing, communicating with, and educating patients: Keeping patients updated on prognosis, progress and clinical status as well as educating them on good self-care.
  • Alleviating physical discomfort: Physical discomfort may significantly affect a patient’s wellness experience.
  • Offering emotional support: Helping to alleviate debilitating fear and anxiety can help improve patient outcomes.
  • Involving family and close friends in decision-making: Respecting, supporting and recognizing those closest to the patient without breaking patient confidentiality.
  • Helping a patient transition after discharge: Coordinating after-treatment care plans and providing adequate information to promote self-care.
  • Ensuring patients have access to care when needed: Patients may be concerned with being able to access facilities and specialists if needed.

Patient-centered nursing care places the patient at the center of healthcare decisions and practices. Every patient has different needs, but nurses can use guidelines, such as those offered in “Principles of Patient-Centered Care” to achieve optimal results. Because nurses play an increasingly central role in providing patient-centered care, they need to have strong skills such as critical thinking, leadership and communication. The online RN to BSN program at Purdue University Northwest is designed to prepare nurses to succeed in this essential role.

Learn more about Purdue Northwest’s online RN to BSN program.


National Academy of Medicine

National Research Corporation

Harvard Medical School

Picker Institute

The Commonwealth Fund

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