Does More Personal Nursing Care Lead to Improved Outcomes?

How does what we wear affect patients? Can a certain color or pattern help while others hurt?


Does More Personal Nursing Care Lead to Improved Outcomes?

There's no denying the importance of good bedside manner: it helps nurses better educate patients and communicate effectively, which means more success after a patient has been discharged. Developing a bedside philosophy that's personalized - one that's focused on compassion and empathy, and one that's tailored to a patient - may be a good strategy for helping nurses achieve greater success in the form of healthier, happier patients.

There's a wide range of research papers and studies emphasizing the importance of personalized nursing care. Overall, they indicate that taking a more personal approach at the bedside can equal improved outcomes in the form of better post-discharge care, higher in-patient happiness and fewer instances of medical errors. But the most important benefit of personal nursing care is that it helps improve the patient-nurse trust relationship.

You Are What You Wear

One of the simplest ways nurses are creating their own unique brand of personalized nursing care is through their uniforms. For example, nurses involved in pediatric care may wear kid-friendly patterned, character or holiday scrubs in order to help create a more personalized environment for kids. But it isn't just the nurse's hunch that leads us to believe this approach may trigger better outcomes; it's actually backed by science.

Multiple studies show that multi-colored and themed caregiver attire can create a beneficial distraction for kids facing painful procedures and fear. For example, one study showed that wearing fun scrubs eased children's discomfort by over 96 percent, while another showed that the same tactic helped improve communication between staff and families by blurring the perception of authority between caregivers (who are often seen as authority figures) and patients.

We know that this can be a valuable approach in pediatric medical environments, but what about when you're caring for the general population and the elderly? Well, the results are just as strong. Studies show that the geriatric population is equally as inspired by exciting and colorful scrubs. In fact, nurses who wear vibrant uniforms in hospice may be responsible for lifting patients' moods and sparking happiness.

You're Only as Good as Your Ability to Listen

Listening is one of the most important aspects of good bedside manner, and we're not talking about your stethoscope skills. According to the Journal of Patient Safety, upwards of 440,000 people die every year from medical errors. What do doctors and nurses cite as the most common reason for these errors? Miscommunication. In fact, the Joint Commission estimates that about 80 percent involve miscommunication.

With all this taken into account, it's no surprise that active listening and proper communication are some of the most important ways to help caregivers provide effective, personalized care. In the book "Listening to Patients: A Phenomenological Approach to Nursing Research and Practice," the authors encourage the use of phenomenology - essentially, listening to a person's perception of their own human experience, and how they express it - in nursing.

According to the authors, this technique may lead to altering the way that patients feel about their own conditions. But you don't have to get too philosophical to implement a listening-based care strategy into your bedside manner approach. There's a wide variety of communication techniques that can help you improve your listening skills to convey a more empathetic, compassionate disposition.

Some literature to consider:

A study published in ScienceDirect found that active listening and self-awareness were associated with empathy in medical settings, and that nursing students who practiced active listening improved patient-centered care.

Another report from the Journal of the Academy of Medical Sciences of Bosnia and Herzegovina suggests that listening helps a caregiver better assess the situation before diagnosis, and that it can improve patient self-esteem.

In "Effective Communication Skills in Nursing Practice," author Elaine Bramhall reports that external factors such as outside noise, lack of privacy and anxiety about feeling judged may inhibit proper communication that could lead to better care.

A study in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing showed that registered nurses who listened to high-risk antepartum patients helped improve the quality of the women's care, allowing nurses to provide better guidance about stress management.

Knowing Your Patient is Vital to Good Care

Getting personal with your patient by understanding his or her background, interests and concerns may be a good tool to helping nurses procure better care outcomes, according to studies. For example, studies indicate that patients who enjoy listening to music were able to better relax, control pain and trust caregivers when clinicians used methods of therapeutic music listening. Pediatric hospitals around the world follow a similar approach by creating kid-friendly hospital rooms complete with video games and toys.

The same approach goes for a patient's ethnic background. Culture and language barriers are some of the most often-cited challenges for nurses looking for better ways to personalize care, but some techniques have helped to address this issue. Developing methods of "culturally competent care" - i.e. understanding certain cultural nuances of your patient base and working with a translator, if necessary - have been proven successful as methods of dealing with culture and language barriers in nursing care.

Other hyper-tailored care methods have been developed by medical professionals to help improve care outcomes in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Heidelise Als, PhD, the director of Neurobehavioral Infant and Child Studies at Boston Children's Hospital developed the Newborn Individualized Development Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP), a customized program for premature babies, to help newborns reduce stress. Studies show that Als' method can help improve lung function, feeding and growth and brain function while shortening the time preterm infants spend in the NICU.

The Bottom Line

With all this fantastic research at our fingertips, we can deduce that higher levels of personalized patient care do, indeed, translate to better outcomes for patients. Revamping your bedside manner techniques to include more personalized methods - whether that means wearing colorful scrubs or using music therapy to calm patients - can help you advance your personal nursing techniques for the better.

Debbie has 20 years of experience helping small practices and large hospitals improve efficiencies. She recently started consulting with a major scrub retailer providing them insight into the daily activities of medical professionals and how best to serve them.

1 Article   1 Post

Share this post

Specializes in NICU. Has 40 years experience.

Well they took away our colorful scrubs and forced everyone to wear white claiming the patients did know who the RNs were.They made staffing decisions that leave nurses worse off ,poor ratios, too much charting.


1 Article; 2,220 Posts

Specializes in Travel, Home Health, Med-Surg. Has 20 years experience.

All good and valuable info, problem is that at the bedside there is very little (if any) time for these therapeutic communication techniques. Our hospital also mandates color of uniform for RN's.