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A male nurse is standing at the bedside of his hospitalized patient, smiling, and looking attentively. The patient is reclining and is attached to a blood pressure monitor and a nasal cannula.

Nurturing Trust in the Nurse-Patient Relationship

4 min readSeptember, 13 2023

Trust is the foundation of the nurse-patient relationship. It’s the basis upon which compassion, shared decision-making, and effective communication are formed.

Nurses are often a patient's first contact at a health care facility. When patients have trust in their nursing team, they feel safe, supported, and confident in their care. That bond leads to better patient satisfaction and, ultimately, better outcomes.

A strong nurse-patient relationship also benefits nurses. They feel empowered knowing they’ve forged connections and provided the compassionate care their patients need and deserve.

Benefits of a Positive Nurse-Patient Relationship

A strong patient-nurse relationship is built on communication, mutual understanding, and trust. This dynamic encourages patient cooperation, which promotes better health outcomes and increases patient satisfaction.

Encourages Honest Communication and Trust

Patients who feel understood without judgment are more likely to disclose sensitive information that can assist in their treatment. They may not have a thorough understanding of the complexities of their condition, but they know whether they feel safe enough to share.

Nurses must earn this trust by spending quality time with patients, practicing active listening, and ensuring their communication is free of bias or judgment.

Reduces Treatment Time

Building a strong nursing relationship with patients can reduce the time they spend in hospital care. Nurses are uniquely positioned to facilitate healing on an emotional and physical level, whether it's soothing an anxious ICU patient so they’re more receptive to treatment or understanding a recurring patient's needs to best advocate for them.

Increases Job Satisfaction

When nurses feel appreciated and valued, they’re better equipped to deal with potential challenges. The emotional fulfillment they get from satisfied patients and an appropriate patient-nurse ratio can reduce fatigue and burnout. This encouragement improves job satisfaction, well-being, and overall staff retention rates.

How to Ensure Patient Trust

External stressors are inevitable in the nursing field, from challenging patients to taxing workloads. Despite these obstacles, nurses must focus on what’s most important — their patients. By treating each patient with respect and dignity to gain their trust, nurses can help them achieve their desired outcomes.

Practice Active Listening

Effective listening involves more than hearing the patient — it means being present, verbally and nonverbally. Nurses who are active listeners exhibit the following traits:

  • Attentiveness. An active listener uses verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate that the patient is heard.
  • Patience. Allowing patients to express themselves without interruption leads to trust and respect.
  • Open-mindedness. Patients are more likely to express themselves without fear of judgment or criticism when their caregiver is open-minded and respectful of their beliefs and choices.
  • Inquisitiveness. An engaged nurse will ask questions to show they’re invested in their patients’ needs, feelings, and well-being.

Take a Patient-Centered Approach

Part of developing a therapeutic relationship in nursing is taking a patient-centered approach. Nurses must calibrate care based on an individual’s values and beliefs. That might mean tailoring care plans to align with the patient’s needs and preferences. Involve them in the decision-making process. A collaborative nurse-to-patient relationship builds trust and empowers patients to participate actively in their care and treatment.

Show Respect for Patients’ Loved Ones

A patient’s family wants to stay informed on their loved one’s condition, treatment, and progress. Ask your patients which family members or supportive loved ones they want involved in their care and treatment. Openly communicating and involving these individuals in the process (while respecting a patient’s right to privacy) builds trust and a supportive environment. Acknowledge your appreciation for their interest and input. With your patient’s permission, involve loved ones in the decision-making process and encourage them to assist in care planning.

A female nurse is meeting with an adolescent patient and their mother in a medical center waiting room. The nurse is listening intently as the young patient is speaking to her.

Treat Patients With Dignity

Patients may feel embarrassed or especially vulnerable during difficult conversations or specific procedures. Nurses can help alleviate emotional discomfort through small acts of respect, whether it means assuring them what they're feeling is normal, apologizing for longer-than-usual wait times, covering them up to preserve their modesty, or requesting permission to enter their room. Nurse leaders can promote these efforts by implementing staff training and soliciting patient feedback. And remember, patient confidentiality is essential to trust. Respecting a patient’s privacy demonstrates a commitment to their dignity and those close to them.

Building a nurse-patient relationship benefits everyone involved. By fostering a strong nursing relationship with patients, nurses can see greater patient engagement, enhanced compliance, and better patient satisfaction and health outcomes. It can also reduce nurse burnout and increase job satisfaction.


Images sourced from Getty Images

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