Nurses impact more than the health of their patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of registered nurses in America is set to grow faster than the average for all occupations over the coming years, with projections of 19 percent growth in the decade from 2012 to 2022.

These increases are going to be caused not only by the aging population and the fact that people live much longer, but also because of a growing issue with chronic conditions (think diabetes and obesity, for example), plus a rising government emphasis on preventative care.

Until now, the importance of nurses in health care, especially the impact they have on their patients’ mental health, is something that has usually been undervalued, in both the health care industry and in society in general. However, with growing numbers of patients to treat, these workers are set to become more vital to the country’s health and well-being than ever.

How Nurses Impact the Mental and Physical Well-being of Patients: A nurse comforting a patient nurses impact - nurses help 001 - How Nurses Impact the Mental and Physical Well-being of Patients

How Nurses Impact the Mental and Physical Well-being of Patients: A nurse comforting a patient.

Registered nurses are responsible for a whole raft of duties in their everyday working life, not just coordinating and implementing patient care, but also providing support and advice to patients and their loved ones, and educating people about health conditions, treatments, and causes.

Whether they work in hospitals, nursing homes, military facilities, schools, doctors’ offices, or prisons, nurses have a huge impact not just on the physical health of patients, but also their mental outlook and well-being. From learning about and evaluating population health management techniques and data, to simply being a shoulder to cry on, nurses are the backbone of any health care facility. Read on for some of the top ways that these busy workers are making a difference in patient care.

Playing an Important Role in Psychosocial Care

Psychosocial care is part of an all-round, holistic treatment regime for patients, and involves the culturally-sensitive provision of care that helps people with their psychological, social, and spiritual needs.

Although supporting the mental well-being of patients is a critical part of nursing care, it also can regularly be overlooked. While nurses learn the physical and technical side of care at university, communicating and supporting patients is something that generally has to be learned on the job.

Patients dealing with sickness and injury need both emotional and informational support from care givers. This generally comes from nurses, and has been shown to radically reduce patient distress, as well as even physical symptoms. Indeed, helping patients to have a more positive mindset can do wonders for their health.

How Nurses Impact the Mental and Physical Well-being of Patients: A nurse helps a patient stand up nurses impact - nurses help 002 - How Nurses Impact the Mental and Physical Well-being of Patients

How Nurses Impact the Mental and Physical Well-being of Patients: A nurse helps a patient stand up

According to a report that appeared in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers who completed studies spanning three decades looked at the attitudes of patients towards their health. They found that positive thinking really can make people healthier, with patients who demonstrated optimistic attitudes about their upcoming surgeries or other health procedures doing much better than those who didn’t.

Nurses can provide critical support to help patients develop and maintain this positive outlook.  To start with, nursing staff should communicate well, and frequently, with their patients; as well as listen to those in care when they need to vent or generally talk about their fears, apprehensions, and other emotions. By creating an ongoing dialogue with patients, nurses can get a helpful idea of how patients are feeling mentally and emotionally; what is important to them; how their relationships with family members and friends might positively or negatively impact them; and how they see themselves.

Through treating each patient as an individual, nurses can help people to feel more “human” in a difficult hospital or other treatment center environment. Providing psychosocial care also helps patients to feel a little more in control of their life, something that often gets taken away during illness.

Nurses who develop good relationships with their patients are also more likely to be able to provide advice, treatment plans, and other health information that is actually listened to, and more likely to be followed when patients return home. All in all, a respectful relationship can have important, long-term, positive benefits for those suffering from injuries or illness.

Utilizing Population Health Management

How Nurses Impact the Mental and Physical Well-being of Patients: A social worker consults with a patient and his wife nurses impact - nurses help 003 - How Nurses Impact the Mental and Physical Well-being of Patients

How Nurses Impact the Mental and Physical Well-being of Patients: A social worker consults with a patient and his wife

In busy venues such as hospitals and nursing homes where there are often staff shortages, care givers can struggle to have the time to properly keep track of the mental status of all of their patients. However, by utilizing new population health management techniques, nurses can develop policies and processes that make it easier and more time efficient to evaluate patient conditions regularly.

Population health management is the aggregation of patient data from diverse areas such as labs, medical claims, doctor’s bills, pharmacies, electronic health records, ambulance providers, inpatient centers, and hospitals.

By combining information into one spot, and studying groups of patients (e.g. those of particular ages, or with certain illnesses) nursing managers can analyze and track records. The information they glean from this can then be used to provide better patient care, as well as improve efficiency.