Although the primary duties of a nurse are considered to be administering medication and intravenous fluids to patients, psychology is also essential in the practice. To understand the role of psychology in nursing, one needs to comprehend both notions, as well as their similarities and shared fields. The paper defines these two disciplines with the aim to explain their co-relation. It also explores how nurses use psychology including its different tools, such as the behavioral theory, and models, such as the emotional intelligence model, in their day-to-day operations in order to accomplish their nursing duties efficiently.
Nursing is the application of clinical judgment in the provision of care with an aim to help patients improve their health and achieve the best possible quality of life (Baker, 2007). Nurses provide care to people who lack the necessary strength, knowledge, or will to care for themselves. On the other hand, psychology is a scientific study of human behavior including all outward actions and reactions, for example, facial expressions and speech, and mental processes, for example, thinking and feelings (Ciccarelli & Meyer, 2006). Psychology seeks to understand why human beings behave and think the way they do in all aspects of their lives including health and health care. Psychology also aims at predicting and changing the behavior of individuals in order to enhance their wellbeing and quality of life. Just like psychology, nursing focuses not only on the patients’ visible symptoms and management of a physical pathology but also on their psychological response and reaction to the illness. Nurses seek to understand the health needs of their patients, as well as change the patients’ way of thinking and behavior in order to improve their quality of life (Baker, 2007).
A nurse who possesses knowledge in psychology can apply appropriate perspectives in different nursing cases. Biological Psychology is one of such crucial perspectives. It assists nurses in understanding the patients’ behavior based on the physiological changes in their bodies. Biological psychologists believe that the biological function and structure determine the behavior of a person (Baker, 2007). An example is a case where the patient is an elderly woman who is always in pain, appears agitated, lacks concentration, and whose memory is deteriorating. A nurse can apply biological psychology in order to diagnose the patient effectively. Upon monitoring the woman, the nurse can discover that her pulse, temperature, and blood pressure are raised. The nurse will then be able to deduce that the patient might be suffering from constipation. After availing to the woman the right medication and advice on keeping to a well-balanced diet, her health is likely to improve in the nearest future. By applying biological psychology, a nurse can observe the influence of physiological functioning on the behavior of patients.
Another psychological perspective is behavioral psychology. It believes that the person’s behavior is to be learned first. The perspective bases its understanding of a human being on the social learning theory that assumes that learning occurs not only as a result of the association and habituation but also in the process of observing the behavior of others and imitating it (Baker, 2007). Nursing students usually apply this perspective, sometimes even without full realization. An example is when a student nurse is observing an experienced nurse talking to a relative of a patient, who has just passed away. The student will employ behavioral psychology to see how the caring behavior of the trained nurse helps the deceased’s relative cope with the loss. Through this observation, the student nurse will be able to imitate the behavior in the future practice.
Humanistic psychology is another perspective. Using this perspective, a nurse motivates patients to desire their well-being (Baker, 2007). A nurse achieves this aim by demonstrating the positive energy to a patient. An example of this perspective application is a situation of a nurse dealing with a distressed patient who refuses to accept his health problem. The nurse employs this perspective in order to demonstrate high regard, as well as empathy and care to a patient. Consequently, the patient reacts well to the nurse’s humanity and gets better. The last psychological perspective is environmental psychology. It focuses on the relationship between people and different issues of their physical surroundings such as pollution, for example (Ciccarelli & Meyer, 2006). A patient’s physical surrounding triggers some diseases, for example, asthma, lung cancer, and lead poisoning. Nurses knowledgeable in environmental psychology can deduce these issues and help in the development of an effective treatment plan for the patient.
Apart from applying psychological perspectives in nursing, psychology is also of the utmost importance for several other reasons and, in particular, for its assistance to those nurses who are providing care to specific groups such as the terminally ill. For general reasons, psychology helps nurses in the management of patients’ ailments. To manage patients with different diseases effectively, nurses should apply psychology in order to understand their feelings and pain and to assess their condition. While some patients may be optimistic about their health and future, some may react negatively. Therefore, a nurse will need to understand the patient’s response to an illness in order to devise the means of evaluating and managing the disease (Ciccarelli & Meyer, 2006). Psychology also helps in building trust between nurses and patients. Patients are usually willing to open up to nurses with a background in psychology as they believe that such nurses can relate to them and their issues. The trust enables patients to be more responsive to the instructions that these nurses provide. Therefore, nurses with a background in psychology have an advantage over those who lack such knowledge.
Psychology is also useful to nurses in the creation of the patients’ treatment plans. When nurses work out treatment plans for their patients, they consider both the mental and physical conditions of a patient (Ciccarelli & Meyer, 2006). For example, a patient suffering from anxiety due to an ailment may refuse to get out of bed. Consequently, he may end up contracting a respiratory infection. Therefore, at this point, a nurse will provide the patient with emotional encouragement while developing a treatment plan that will suit his psychological needs. In the treatment plan, a nurse may decide to set short-term objectives, for example, the patient getting out of the room for some fresh air three times a day.
Psychology is also essential to nursing as nurses use psychological factors applicable to a patient while informing them about their lifestyle and how it affects their health (Ciccarelli & Meyer, 2006). For example, the shaking hands of a patient can help a nurse deduce that he or she is a smoking addict, and the nurse can then help the patient overcome this habit and improve health. While some nurses apply psychology in their day-to-day operations as a secondary skill, some nurses put psychology in the center of their practice. These nurses work as psychiatric specialists at mental institutions and care for the mentally ill patients (Ciccarelli & Meyer, 2006). Some also work at hospitals, drug treatment facilities, and home health agencies as case managers providing counseling and crisis intervention, as well as teaching patients strategies for managing their mental and emotional health issues.
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Nurses always apply psychology when providing specialized care to patients. An example is a nurse caring for the elderly. A careful assessment of an aging person’s perception of the own health is an important part of the primary care that nurses provide to the elderly (Ayranci & Ozdag, 2005). When nurses detect problems early enough and intervene, many complications can be avoided, and the elderly can maintain a high quality of life. However, to recognize these issues, nurses have to assess both the physical and psychological behavior of an individual. For example, psychology can help reveal that an elderly person is frequently sick because of the psychological status. The person may be impacted by family members who neglect him or her, provide no so much-needed assistance, or when they socially isolate him or her. All these factors can psychologically affect an elderly patient (Ayranci & Ozdag, 2005). Consequently, the person may end up developing serious illnesses, for example, depression. After the assessment, nurses are supposed to provide these patients with the emotional support they need, which will help them in improving their overall well-being.
Nurses also apply psychology while caring for the terminally ill. Terminally ill patients are afraid of the death most of the time. Moreover, they always worry about the close ones, whom they are leaving behind, especially if they are the breadwinner for their families. Therefore, apart from the constant physical pain, these patients experience psychological issues that, if not detected in time, can contribute to the early demise of a patient (Baker, 2007). Nurses, therefore, apply psychological care when dealing with such individuals. They create a relaxed psychological surrounding intended to guide patients through the rough times. Communicating with the patients helps them open up and express positivity; such a possibility is essential in taking their minds from the negative thoughts. Tactile contact with terminally ill patients with cancer is important as it helps them cope with the fear. It also creates an emotional connection between a patient and a nurse based on sympathy. Nurses that are working at community health centers also apply psychology at the early stages of mental illnesses in order to help patients receive appropriate treatment (Baker, 2007). Nurses can also offer psychological lessons for patients of these community health centers and provide them with proper guidance in order to help them deal with stress and other life problems effectively and timely before they develop any mental problems.
Nurses also care for the injured sports individuals. Progress in the health management technology has condensed the required period for the physical rehabilitation. Consequently, athletes can get physically healed rather quickly but yet have to recover psychologically. The discrepancies between these two forms of healing have led to an increase in calls for nurses to provide psychological care while physically caring for the injured sports people (Reese, Pittsinger, & Yang, 2012). Therefore, nurses apply different techniques, for example, relaxation, micro counseling of the injured patient, and acceptance and commitment therapy. These techniques have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing patients’ negative psychological consequences and have led to an improvement in their psychological coping. They have also reduced the re-injuring anxiety that sports individuals usually experience (Reese, Pittsinger, & Yang, 2012).
Knowledge of psychology is also essential for a nurse involved in the pediatric care. Children are unique. Unlike adults who can inform about any discomforts they are encountering, children have a difficulty with opening up and talking about any ailment (Ciccarelli & Meyer, 2006). Therefore, nurses have to apply psychology in analyzing children’s ailments and providing them with appropriate treatment plans. For example, a child may be experiencing migraines, the cause of which is difficult to know. However, when a pediatric nurse talks to the child and connects with him emotionally, the child may reveal that the migraines usually occur when his parents are fighting at home. Through this fundamental discovery, the nurse can assist in developing effective treatment plans for the child.
Psychology is important in helping a nurse not only when dealing with patients but also when dealing with other issues at the workplace. The nursing profession causes burnouts in nurses because of numerous reasons, for example, depression, that are a consequence of their job and the duty t manage the terminally ill because of cruel diseases such as cancer. Therefore, a nurse applies an emotional intelligence model in these situations. The model assesses the ability of an individual to manage own emotions and those of other people (Akerjordet & Severinsson, 2007). It helps nurses to confront and control their emotions. Researchers have proven that the psychological model minimizes the negative consequences of stress. Apart from this model, another tool that helps nurses to deal with emotional stress and burnouts is the psychological capital model. It involves the study of the positive human strengths and mental capacities that are quantifiable and easy to develop and manage in order to improve the performance of nurses (Reese, Pittsinger, & Yang, 2012).
The model applies four concepts with the first being self-efficacy. The concept refers to a nurse’s self-confidence in the own ability to perform tasks by using necessary efforts to accomplish the set goals by persevering through difficulties. The second concept is hope. It entails a nurse being self-motivated to get where one wants to be by creating realistic paths to achieving the goals (Reese, Pittsinger, & Yang, 2012). The next concept is optimism. It helps nurses credit themselves for the positive life events thereby elevating their self-esteem. It also assists them in distancing from the negativity and, in the process, protecting themselves from depression and self-blame. The last concept is resilience. It is the ability of a nurse to recover from the adversity and overwhelming challenges (Reese, Pittsinger, & Yang, 2012). Consequently, nurses move beyond setbacks and end up performing better. The psychological capital model has helped reduce stress in nurses. After applying this model, nurses have demonstrated a high level of self-confidence, as well as a high degree of hope and optimism concerning the achievement of the work-related goals.
Apart from assisting nurses in coping with the job-related stress and burnouts, psychology also helps them in understanding the working environment around them including the behavior of colleagues and physicians. Good nursing care depends on the ability of nurses to comprehend workplace situations well (Ciccarelli & Meyer, 2006). In turn, psychology allows nurses to understand their colleagues better and to seek the cooperation when necessary. Consequently, it fosters unity in the team of health professionals leading to the decreased number of nurse turnovers.
Even though nursing and psychology are independent scientific fields, the paper has shown that they are closely linked. Today, nursing not only considers the physical caring for patients but also encompasses caring for their psychological well-being and quality of life. Psychology is important when nurses are communicating with their patients in evaluating their patients and in developing their treatment plans. It is also now widely applied in respect to the specialized areas requiring nursing. These areas range from caring for sportspersons, the terminally ill, children, community health organizations, and the elderly. In all these areas, nurses are required to provide care for the psychological aspect of the patients’ illnesses in order to make the treatment holistic. Nurses also apply psychological perspectives in their day-to-day work. Perspectives like biological and humanistic psychology enable a nurse to understand the psychological reason behind the patient’s illness. On the other hand, psychological models, just like the emotional intelligence and the psychological capital models, assist nurses in dealing with the work-related stresses and burnouts consequently resulting in the improved performance. With the increase in the application of psychology in nursing, the overall and holistic wellbeing of a patient is guaranteed.
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