Nurses' Perceptions of Facilitating a Therapeutic Nurse-Patient Relationship in Private General Hospitals in South Africa

Wednesday, 24 July 2013: 8:30 AM

Annalie E. Van den Heever, MCur (PsychNsg), BSocSci (Nsg) (Hons)
Department of Nursing Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Learning Objective 1: The learner will become aware of the importance of facilitating a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship at a deeper level of empathetic understanding

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to identify between knowledge, verbal and non-verbal skills and attitude of nurses who provide wholistic care for all patients

Purpose: Facilitation of a therapeutic relationship is an essential skill in nursing, particularly in mental health care. Nurses in private general hospitals are exposed to the emotional effects of physical illness as well as the increase in admission of patients with mental health needs. Poor nurse- patient relationships have been reported by patients and in the media. The researchers experienced incidents of an apparent lack of awareness during nurse-patient interactions while working in private general hospitals.  However, no studies have been done on how nurses and care workers perceive a therapeutic relationship with patients in terms of their emotional and mental health needs. In accordance with the research problem, the purpose of the study was to explore and describe nurses' perceptions of facilitating a nurse-patient therapeutic relationship.

Methods: A quantitative, contextual and deductive study was conducted in three private general hospitals in Gauteng, South Africa with a purposive sample of 184 nurses and care workers. Based on the concepts of a therapeutic relationship, empathy, positive regard, genuineness, concreteness and self-exploration, nurses’ perceptions of facilitating a therapeutic relationship were self-assessed on five point scales in a questionnaire. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and non-parametric statistical techniques. Specific hypotheses were tested to identify whether statistically significant differences existed between the perceptions of two or more categories of nurses.

Results: Results showed general insensitivity, lack of awareness and reflection of nurses and care workers regarding the patients’ emotional needs. When categories of nurses were compared, no statistically significant differences were found between the perceptions of various groups tested.

Conclusion: Previous training or experience was clearly not retained over time; therefore, all categories of nurses need to be equipped with the necessary self-awareness and interpersonal skills to facilitate a nurse-patient relationship with patients who have physical and mental health needs.