The 1994 report, “Health Professions Education and Relationship-Centred Care”, stressed that one-on-one interaction between healthcare providers and patients is a necessary and vital part of any therapeutic or healing activity. It defined this interaction “as the foundation of any therapeutic or healing activity.” In 2004, seminal work was published which moved the debate forward into mainstream nursing, “Relationship-Based Care: A Model for Transforming Practice”.
The role of the primary nurse is to understand who patients are, and what it will take to prepare them and their loved ones to take ownership for their personal care after being discharged. Nurses deal with large volumes of patients with highly complex medical needs. They don't have a long time to spend with a patient but 5 minutes at the bedside is often enough to learn about the person and plan their care. Finding those 5 minutes to develop relationships with patients is not easy for nurses but, however short the time might be, interpersonal time with patients is crucial.
Nurses are accountable for planning, delivering, delegating, coordinating, evaluating and modifying the patient's care. Additionally, they must effectively communicate the patient’s care plan across shifts and different settings of care to ensure continuity of care. Relationship-Based Care has positively affected clinical quality, as well as patient and staff satisfaction. Experts say that respecting and listening to patients will become more and more important as healthcare adopts a new culture of accountability.
According to Joyce Fitzpatrick, the importance of holistic nursing and the nurse-patient relationship helps nurses to know the patients as people rather than as a diagnosis. Interpersonal relationships play a crucial role to both nurses and patients which result in harmony and healing. Relationship-based care is focused on three crucial relationships:
- With self: knowing who you are, creating self-awareness and self-monitoring. It helps you to align your daily roles with your personal life.
- With colleagues: healthy interpersonal relationships help you to achieve a common goal.
- With Patients and families: communication is the key to building therapeutic relationships with patients and families.
Communicating with the patient’s family members is also of great importance as they will be the people closest to the patient, so they need to be every bit as supported and informed as the patient is. Nurses often reintroduce themselves to each patient every time they enter the room. This helps the patient remember who they are and what their responsibilities to them are. As a nurse, the relationship you develop with a patient can in fact strengthen care practices and improve safety for patients and their families.