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31 Mar 2021

The importance of person centred care

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Nurse talking to a patient in a hospital bed.

Nursing is a difficult profession, and any given shift can see any nurse dealing with so many patients it can be very hard not to reduce them to their illnesses or injuries in an attempt to deal with the sheer amount of information they have to juggle.

This is further compounded by the traditional medical model most doctors still use that do just that. Despite massive changes in recent years it is still common practice for many doctors to not see the patient but the disease or injury they are dealing with there and then.

It is very easy to see why this has worked in the past. This reactive, episodic care focuses on the problems that medical and health professionals are essentially there to fix. That injured knee, that pressure sore, that bout of C Diff or that Cancer. It allows us to hone in on the problem and deal with it. To some extent it may even help nurses and other medical practitioners keep that professional boundary and not become too emotionally involved with their patients.

But this is not good enough anymore. Nurses have to see the person, not the illness. As patients are increasingly burdened with co morbidities and multiple illnesses over far longer periods of time, focusing solely on clinical outcomes is no longer relevant to a service that should be providing high quality care that supports each patient as an individual person, with care outcomes, support and treatment that is important to them as a person and very specific to them as an individual.

This is why person centred care is now considered so important.

Person centred care is a powerful, underlying principle to modern nursing best practice. It is a philosophy that changes the way nurses deliver safe and effective care and interact with their patients, yet is a paradigm that is not always adhered to.

Best practice for nurses now is always to deliver care in a person centred, distinctive way. This not only focuses on what is important to the patient and to an extent their family too, but it also improves outcome across the board and allows our patients to live fuller, richer and healthier lives as the nursing team deliver care and treat whatever illness or injury that may be inflicting them.

No one likes to feel dismissed or ignored, or feel like their needs, wishes and wants are not being taken into account. No one likes having important decisions about their lives being made for them or imposed upon them whether they like it or not.

A person centred approach allows nurses to work alongside patients and promote independence and self management wherever possible. It allows the patient to be involved in their care and share in the decision making process.

This approach has been shown time and again to improve the patient experience, to enhance adherence to medication and treatment regimes and allow the patient to retain as much independence and dignity as possible.

Valuing patients as individuals allows nurses to give a flexible approach to their care that can be responsive to changing needs and cultural differences. It just allows nurses to give a level of care that is more meaningful and relevant to the individual they are caring for. What is right for one may not be right for another.

When a patient feels they have an input into their care, an active role in the management of that care and an equal footing on the decision-making process, it puts them back in charge of their own lives. They are no longer passive passengers just doing as the nurse says. Nurses should be meeting those individual needs and expectations and working alongside the patient to do what is best for them.

It is important to remember that although there may be standard treatment options for a variety of injuries and illnesses, that does not mean the care plans for one patient will be the same for the next, even if they have the same clinical diagnosis. This is what patient centred care is.    

And of course by taking a person centred care approach to treating patients, nurses will be adhering to what is quickly becoming standard national policy. The patient experience is one of the five domains of the NHS outcomes framework, with many individual policies within the public and private sector now focusing on individual patients active involvement in their own care and collective, shared decision making.

Adhering to new policies and frameworks is essential for nurses to be able to practice, but it is not the reason they should be doing it. By treating patients as individuals, by working alongside them and involving them in the decision making process for their own care, nurses are making life better for their patients. They are empowering them to make their own choices, gain a better quality of life, respecting them as individual human beings and not just another NHS number or diagnosis.

And surely that should be enough reason for any nurse to practice patient centred care at all times.

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