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Tips for Being a More Caring Nurse

Caring i​s the core of nursing practice, foundational to best practices, patient outcomes and the very definition of nursing itself.

“What nursing has to do in either case, is to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him,” wrote Florence Nightingale in her 1859 book “Notes on Nursing.” 

Healthcare institutions have been using this summary from Nightingale to explain the purpose of nursing ever since. As Nightingale eloquently describes, caring and nursing are so intertwined that one cannot exist without the other.

The word “caring” has two main definitions: as an adjective describing the quality of showing concern and kindness for others, and as a noun referring to the practice of looking after people in need, such as the sick and elderly. For nurses, these definitions are reminders that the best patient care recognizes every person as a human being whose personal experiences directly impact their health and well-being. 

Whether a nursing student, professional or educator, we can all benefit from referring back to the fundamental theories of nursing care to ensure we continually approach patients with compassion, dignity and respect.

What is caring in nursing?

Institutions and curriculums have long held caring as one of the central values every nursing student and professional should keep first in mind. 

The National League for Nursing characterizes caring as part of a nurse’s duty to understand the needs of others, to look after the whole person, to work for the common good and to extend a helping hand to vulnerable populations.

A caring nurse puts their patient at ease, validating their experiences through empathetic understanding and improving their well-being through technical knowledge. Nurses often see people at their most fragile states, so they have a unique opportunity to guide patients through the healing process with kindness and gentleness.

Why is caring important in nursing?

Nursing students are often drawn to the field because they want to care for people to the best of their ability. This calling is one of the reasons researchers classify nursing as a “helping profession,” along with jobs such as teaching, counseling and social work.

Some become nurses because they view the profession as an opportunity to form caring relationships with patients. Similarly, some patients judge their healthcare experience solely based on their relationship with caregivers. 

However, beyond the abstract meanings, caring is essential in nursing as it can accelerate healing, ease pain and reduce stress. 

Stanford University research found that when healthcare professionals approached patients with kindness and compassion, those patients felt less anxiety and pain and healed quicker. Patients who felt strong connections with their caregivers were also more likely to stick to the plan of care.

Approaching nursing with an attitude of caring has physical, emotional and spiritual benefits for you and your patients. Here are some practical tips for becoming a more caring, compassionate nurse.

How to Apply the Five C’s of Caring to Your Nursing Practice

What are nurses doing when they are caring?

Sister M. Simone Roach proposed “The Five C’s of Caring” in 1987 to answer the age-old question, giving generations of nurses a simple model for best patient care. Consistently applying the five C’s in the classroom or clinical can lead to better relationships with coworkers and patients and a higher likelihood of career advancement.

1. Commitment

In “Caring, the Human Mode of Being,” Roach defines commitment as the decision to act in accordance with your obligations when faced with a convergence between your duties and desires. 

Nurses make a profound commitment to their work — which often conflicts with other priorities. Providing the best possible care for patients is not always convenient. From nursing school and throughout their professional career, nurses can and should frequently renew their commitment to the profession.

Acting as a committed nurse can look like:

  • Going above and beyond expected behaviors.
  • Pledging to uphold strong values.
  • Pursuing lifelong learning to enhance the level of care delivered to patients
  • Staying by patients and families during a crisis.
  • Remaining available to patients and families as needed.

2. Conscience

Nurses have to face complex ethical scenarios every day. That’s why a code of ethical principles and standards govern the profession — to aid nurses in making the best moral-ethical decisions. Roach uses the second C, conscience, to represent this nursing code of ethics.  

“The caring professional endeavors to develop a fine-tuned conscience, responsive to the moral-ethical in teaching and practice, having basic knowledge and skill, while at the same time knowing when and where to seek consultation,” Roach writes.

In other words, following your conscience is not just having the knowledge to make sound decisions on your own, but also knowing when to admit you need help.

Practicing conscientious nursing behavior in your everyday work might also mean:

  • Maintaining a strong sense of moral responsibility.
  • Working consistently on another’s behalf.
  • Advocating for the patient and representing their concerns.
  • Understanding patients’ rights.
  • Putting yourself in the patient’s shoes.

3. Competence

A competent nurse has the skills, knowledge and clinical judgment to meet patient needs and fulfill your professional duties. Competence and compassion go hand in hand, as a kind nurse, but the unskilled nurse may pose harm to people in need.

Competence in the nursing profession requires years of study, preparation, discipline and practice. Classes, tests and exams like the NCLEX ensure every nursing student is prepared to become a safe, skilled nurse.

In addition to being a lifelong learner, you can exercise competence as a nurse by:

  • Presenting yourself in a professional manner.
  • Holding yourself to a high standard of excellence for all tasks.
  • Asking for help when you are uncertain about something.
  • Knowing conditions and treatments inside-out.
  • Implementing and evaluating plans of care to meet patient needs.

4. Compassion

Compassion is often the first quality people associate with nursing. Expressing compassion for patients and their families is essential for holistic care and pain alleviation.

By treating patients with compassion, nurses may gain a stronger sense of purpose — reminding them why they entered the nursing field. Compassion should be at the heart of all nurse-patient relationships.

Some concrete ways you can show compassion in the workplace are:

  • Empathizing with patients.
  • Providing kind and considerate treatment at all times.
  • Recognizing loss.
  • Providing patients and families with a safe space to express fears.

5. Confidence

Confidence ties all of the other qualities together in this model. It takes confidence in your skills and knowledge to stay committed, follow your conscience, act competently and express compassion in challenging circumstances.

Having a strong sense of self enables patients and their families to trust you in their moments of vulnerability. A confident nurse can more effectively help others who are dealing with difficult situations.

Building confidence is a lifelong practice, but it starts with these actions:

  • Showing patients you have the experience to help them.
  • Feeling comfortable around patients and their families.
  • Believing in your ability to accomplish tasks independently.
  • Serving as a trustworthy source of advice.
  • Being unafraid to admit when you don’t know an answer.

Are you going to be a caring nurse?

The nursing field wouldn’t be what it is today without theories of caring like the Five C’s. This model reminds people what it means to be a nurse in a simple, straightforward, memorable way. Caring is what separates nursing from other professions.

Commit today to incorporate the Five C’s of Caring into your profession and life.

Hurst Review is an NCLEX-prep provider on a mission to create safer, skilled nurses and help students pass the NCLEX the first time. Try Hurst Review for free.