Nursing is one of the youngest professions but one of the oldest arts. It evolved from the familial roles of nurturing and care taking. Early responsibilities included assisting women during childbirth, suckling healthy newborns, and ministering to the ill, aged and helpless within the household and surrounding community. Its hallmark was caring more than curing. Nursing skills now take on greater responsibility, including counseling skills, caring skills, and comforting skills.
A counselor is one who listens to a client’s needs, responds with information based on his or her area of expertise, and facilitates the outcome that a client deserves. Nurses implement counseling skills that include communicating with patients, actively listening to the exchange of information, offering pertinent health teaching, and providing emotional support. For example, the nurse is discharging a patient that has been diagnosed HIV positive and is given a lengthy list of things to do and medication to take.
The nurse finds opportunity to teach the patient how to promote the healing process, to stay well, and how to prevent illness. Another example of this skill would be encouraging the patient to communicate their feelings. Usually patients do not always communicate their feelings to strangers, so in this situation the nurse uses empathy to perceive the patients emotional state and need for support. Providing advice to the patient is an important skill nurses possess, for the well being of his or her patients.
Although treatment of the ill is a primary concern of the nurse, she also carries out the caring skills as a daily task for her patients. Traditionally, nurses have always been providers of physical care for people unable to meet their own health needs independently. But caring also involves the concern and attachment that results from the close relationship of one human being with another.
For instance, caring for a patient’s needs include helping with ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living), such as bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, and eating. More and more, however, the role of a nurse is being extended to include the safe care of patients who require invasive or highly technical equipment. Nurses are now visible in more operating rooms and making more decisions than ever before. When caring for the patients needs, the nurse is in control of her own techniques. This allows her to personalize the treatment for that individual patient. A Nurses caring skills range from simple to complex, but they are necessary in the eyes of her patient.
Nurses use comforting skills, to help patients cope during a time of crisis. Florence Nightingale’s (the founder of modern nursing) presence and the light from her lamp communicated comfort to the frightened British soldiers. As a result of her heritage, contemporary nurses understood that illness often causes feelings of insecurity that may threaten the patients or family’s ability to cope. This often causes them to be very vulnerable. It is then that the nurse uses comforting skills.
Providing these skills is most important, when a patient or the patient’s family need interventions that provide stability and security during a health-related crisis. Examples of this would be, but not limited to, death of a family member, an unsettling diagnosis, or a surgical outcome that is undesirable. The nurse becomes the patient’s guide, companion, and interpreter. This supportive relationship generally brings about trust and reduces fear and worry.
Modern nursing now includes comforting skills, caring skills, and counseling skills, in addition to the traditional role of treatment giver of the sick and dying. The modern nurse acts as a temporary proxy, meeting the patient’s health needs with knowledge and skills that neither the patient nor the family can provide. If we could imagine the world without nurses, which give the continuous care that no one else could give, it would be a lonely trip to the doctor’s office. As the role of the nurse changes in the future, there will be more skills in the technical and holistic aspect of the patient’s care, which the nurse will learn to help her patients in every way possible.