What Is Patient-Centered Care? A Key Component for Advanced Nursing Care

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A doctor high fives a little girl while her laughing father looks on.










Health care has discovered the power of turning patients into partners by embracing patient-centered care.

What is patient-centered care? It’s an approach to health care that puts patients in the driver’s seat. Health professionals have found that when patients play an active role in their own care, they’re empowered, and results improve. Patient-centered care reduces unnecessary procedures, honors patient preferences, and improves patient health.

Patient-centered care is personalized care. It allows health professionals to build targeted patient care strategies. However, trust between the patient and the provider is crucial. Achieving trust requires not only strong leadership skills but also advanced knowledge of nursing practices.

An MSN to DNP online program can cultivate the expertise nurse leaders need to shape health care delivery using the most current approaches, including patient-centered care.

What Is Patient-Centered Care?

In patient-centered care, health professionals inform, advise, and support patients as they make decisions about their health and treatment. Patients don’t take orders from their health care providers, encouraging them to actively participate in directing their own care.
Patient-centered care takes into account the totality of an individual. Patients have emotions, questions, opinions, financial worries, and families. A patient-centered approach focuses on working in partnership with patients when treating them and dealing with the whole patient, a person with unique concerns.

  • The following elements are key in a patient-centered approach:
  • Transparency and speedy delivery of patient health information
  • Health professionals who collaborate with patients
  • Attention to physical needs and emotional wellness
  • Respect for the perspectives of patients and their families
  • Patient and family inclusion in the decision-making process
  • A welcoming environment for families in care settings
  • Health care facilities with values and goals aligned with those of their patients

Collaboration in Patient-Centered Care

Collaboration plays a vital role in patient-centered care. When patients participate in the care delivery process, health professionals can customize care strategies that align with patient needs and preferences.

Traditionally, for example, nurse practitioners treating overweight diabetes patients might hand over diet plans and exercise regimens, while telling patients the changes they need to make and why.

In a patient-centered care approach, nurse practitioners and patients brainstorm to find activities and strategies that fit into patient lifestyles. Health professionals ask questions that help uncover personalized ways to address their conditions.

Collaboration builds trust and rapport, encourages open communication, and helps patients stick to care strategies. It also lowers anxiety. Collaboration deepens patients’ understanding of their health conditions, enabling them to make informed decisions.

Through collaboration, health professionals can improve their understanding of patients. In doing so, health professionals support patient health goals.

The Holistic Mindset of Patient-Centered Care

A holistic approach is an important part of what patient-centered care is. The model addresses patients’ needs for physical comfort, while also paying attention to their emotional health. The two often influence each other.

It’s important for health professionals to remember that each patient’s circumstances are unique. By weighing their patients’ preferences, cultural traditions, values, and socioeconomic backgrounds, health professionals can more effectively address patient health issues.

For example, if a patient’s insurance only covers four sessions of physical therapy, and the patient can’t afford out-of-pocket expenses, health professionals can work to come up with strategies that get around these roadblocks.

Since patient-centered care considers the whole person, it fits a patient’s mental, social, cultural, and spiritual perspectives. This can mean showing respect for patient beliefs on death, pregnancy and birth, or diet. It also means being mindful of historical issues that make a group question professional advice about care.

Patient-Centered Care and Care Delivery Goals

For patient-centered care to work, the mission, vision, and leadership of a facility must align with a patient-centered approach. The facility assesses the degree to which health professionals collaborate with patients or how well they support the emotional well-being of patients.

Health facilities may implement patient satisfaction surveys or establish advisory councils of patients and families that can offer meaningful feedback. In this way, facilities can fine-tune their patient-centered care approach and gauge its progress.

Health professionals can also integrate a patient-centered care approach with other delivery approaches. For example, evidence-based practice — an approach that combines information from clinical studies and the values and preferences of patients to come up with care plans — can work in tandem with patient-centered care.

Value-based purchasing can also incentivize patient-centered care. This approach links health care providers’ earnings to the quality of care delivered, rewarding providers for delivering better care and making them more accountable for delivering appropriate care.

Patient-and Family-Centered Care at a Glance

Patient- and family-centered care allows patients to define the role of each family member in their care. Building a meaningful alliance between patients and their families succeeds. Why? Patients and their families know best what they want out of treatment. Cancer patients may not want the most aggressive treatment, for example. They may decide the side effects aren’t worth it. Similarly, patients may think that the financial burden of a surgery with a 50% success rate doesn’t make sense for them.

A strong, open relationship with patients and families allows health professionals to honor their values and desires. For example, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease may be unable to communicate needs upon arriving at a facility. By building a solid line of communication with the family, nurse practitioners can remain mindful of the patient and family’s desire that they only administer palliative care or medicines that manage delusions.

The Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care identifies several concepts that are key to a patient- and family-centered care approach:

  • Dignity. Health professionals listen to patient and family choices and incorporate their values and beliefs into their care delivery.
  • Participation. Health professionals engage patients and families to actively participate in decision-making and support them during this process.
  • Collaboration. Health professionals develop treatment plans with patients and families.
  • Sharing of unbiased information. Health professionals ensure that patients and families have full access to health information they can use to make informed decisions.

This approach to care offers meaningful benefits:

  • Improved patient satisfaction
  • Greater staff morale
  • Cost of care reductions

Patient-Centered Care Examples in Action

Health professionals give patient-centered care in many clinical settings, from nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities to critical care units, emergency rooms, and community health centers.

For example, a gerontological nurse or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) delivering patient-centered care should do the following:

  • Create supportive environments
  • Encourage social support
  • Strengthen patient-provider relationships via clear communication

To measure what patient-centered care is, look at the concept in action. Considering patient-centered care examples sheds light on how patients develop trust. Examples also demonstrate why trusting relationships between the patient and provider make it easier to deliver strategic care.

Patient-Centered Care in Primary Care

In primary care, nurse practitioners, DNPs, or physicians using a patient-centered care model cultivate personal relationships with patients. Empathy, eye contact, dialogue, and inquiries about a patient’s emotional well-being enable providers to develop a relationship of trust.

This process enables providers to assess a patient’s overall needs and even pick up on personal issues that may contribute to symptoms.

With this wider view of a patient, providers offer important support. Consider the following scenarios:

  • By engaging a patient with high blood pressure in conversation about overall well-being, a nurse practitioner learns the patient’s mother recently died, so the patient is depressed. In addition to referring the patient to a specialist for a heart condition, the nurse practitioner recommends a peer support program for people who’ve lost loved ones, as well as grief counseling options.
  • A patient shows up late for a well visit complaining of persistent headaches. The DNP notices the patient appears distressed and frazzled and engages the patient in conversation about the day. In this way, the DNP learns the patient recently lost a job; the symptoms began shortly afterward. During the checkup, the DNP discusses stress-relieving activities the patient enjoys. The patient mentions an interest in meditation, so the DNP recommends a community center that offers meditation classes as well as employment counseling, then schedules a follow-up appointment.

Patient-Centered Care in Hospitals

What is patient-centered care in hospitals? A patient-centered care model in hospitals requires health professionals to make patients and their families active participants in decision-making. Additionally, hospital policies and design provide comfort to patients and their families, as well as establish openness, trust, and a sense of partnership between providers, patients, and families.

Hospitals using patient-centered care models empower and support patients and their families as much as possible. Consider the following examples:

  • Instead of rules restricting visits, patients decide who can visit and when. Patient-centered hospitals encourage family (as defined by the patient) to visit anytime patients would like them to. During shift changes, health professionals may invite family members to talk with the care team about the patient’s progress and care.
  • Maternity wards may be constructed with rooms designed to accommodate the mother, baby, and family members to allow them to bond postpartum. During the birthing process, health professionals will thoughtfully communicate with mothers and their families to foster trust and confidence. They’ll also sensitively deal with cultural issues by honoring requests to preserve the umbilical cord, allowing for prayers and blessings, and making space for spiritual or religious objects. If complications arise, providers will carefully lay out treatment options regarding epidurals (pain management method) or cesarean sections, and allow patients and their families to make final decisions.

What Is the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse’s Role in the Patient-Centered Care Model?

Communication is at the heart of meeting patient needs. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), such as certified nurse midwives and clinical nurse specialists, rely on their excellent interpersonal and communication skills to create effective patient-centered care strategies.

APRNs must understand that the way they convey information is as important as the information itself. By communicating with honesty and compassion using accurate, complete, and clear information, APRNs can more effectively care for their patients. Studies link strong communication with the following:

  • Improved patient results
  • Fewer adverse events
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Improved patient understanding
  • Increased adherence to treatment plans

By speaking with sensitivity, listening closely, and asking thoughtful questions, APRNs can help develop care plans with their patients that best address pain management, medication needs, and follow-up care, among other things.

APRNs not only educate patients about health and treatment options but also teach them about what patient-centered care is. They help patients and families understand their roles and rights in care and treatment within a patient-centered care model. For example, APRNs advise patients of the following:

  • Patients have a right to access their health information.
  • Patients should advise providers about their preferences and expect them to be respected.
  • Patients have a right to confidentiality and privacy.
  • Patients can participate in tailoring their treatment so it suits their needs and health goals.

Cultural Competency

Cultural competency is vital to building the trusted partnerships with patients, so essential to the patient-centered care model. Cultural competency means recognizing patients’ cultural backgrounds and perspectives. This means considering patients’ traditions, values, belief systems, and socioeconomic circumstances, respecting them and responding with sensitivity.

Nurse leaders help colleagues reflect on any attitudes or stereotypes they may hold, conscious or otherwise, and how those perspectives could affect their understanding of patient actions or choices.
Nurse leaders also engage staff in discussions of race, gender, age, class, gender identity, and so forth as they apply to their patients. Armed with new awareness, nurses build patient relationships that honor their beliefs, values, and identities.

Putting Patients First

Dealing with health concerns creates anxiety. However, strong partnerships between patients and health professionals can relieve some of that anxiety and improve overall care. Trust, collaboration, and communication sit at the center of what patient-centered care is.

When patients have a say in decisions about their health care and understand their own treatment plans, everybody benefits: health outcomes and patient experience improves, resources are better allocated, and clinicians feel certain that they’ve addressed patient needs.

Nurse leaders play an important role in implementing patient-centered care models in every type of clinical setting, from hospitals to nursing homes. With the right leadership skills and advanced practice expertise, they can effectively shape the policies and procedures in their facilities.

Aspiring nurse leaders can prepare themselves to pursue their professional goals by earning a DNP. Regis College offers a comprehensive program that trains future nurse leaders, deepening their knowledge of patient care, research methods, and policies and procedures. Learn more about how an MSN to DNP online program from Regis College prepares nurses to become leaders in their fields.

Recommended Readings
Careers in Care Leadership: What Is a Nurse Mentor?
How Technological Advancements in Nursing Apply to Nursing Specializations
What Is a Doctor of Nursing Practice? Examining an Advanced Degree

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Evidence-Based Practices
American Nurses Association, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
BMC Health Services Research, “The Importance of Patient-Centered Care and Co-Creation of Care for Satisfaction with Care and Physical and Social Well-Being of Patients with Multi-Morbidity in the Primary Care Setting”
Health Leads, Patient-Centered Care: Elements, Benefits and Examples
HealthCare.gov, Value-Based Purchasing (VBP)
Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care, Patient- and Family-Centered Care
IntechOpen, “Patient-Centred Care in Maternity Services”
Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences, “Collaboration in Health Care”
Lippincott Solutions, Why Patient-Centered Care Is So Important
Nurse.com, Evidence-Based Practice
Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, “Communication: A Critical Healthcare Competency”
PatientEngagementHIT, “How Can Healthcare Professionals Define Patient Engagement?”
Psychiatry Online, “Practicing Cultural Competence and Cultural Humility in the Care of Diverse Patients”
Regis College, 5 Benefits of Value-Based Purchasing in Health Care
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners