The Nurse-Patient Relationship: Components, Phases & Outcomes

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  • 00:00 Nurse-Patient Relationship
  • 00:45 Components
  • 2:46 Phases
  • 5:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

A therapeutic nurse-patient relationship is a supportive interaction that moves a patient toward wellness. It's based on trust, respect, interest, and empathy. Learn how to use these components to move patients through each phase of the relationship.

Nurse-Patient Relationship

Even as small children, we learn that friends make the world feel safe and fun. True friends are trusted with our secrets and respect our privacy. Through their actions and words, friends encourage us to reach our goals and comfort us when we have a setback. In a lot of ways, a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship is like a friendship. This professional interaction is a caring relationship that supports a patient's well-being. A successful nurse-patient relationship is based on trust and respect, much like a friendship. In this lesson, we'll look at these components and others and show how they can be used to help a patient move through the different phases of a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship.


There are many skills to learn when studying to become a nurse. One of the most important skills is how to create a therapeutic relationship with patients. To do this, a nurse must master a few key components, including trust and respect. As a nurse, you should introduce yourself to your patients and refer to the patient by name. These seemingly small gestures display an air of friendliness, caring, and approachability, which can go a long way toward making a patient feel safe.

When you maintain eye contact with a patient, you continue to foster trust and respect as your relationship progresses. It's also important to respect a patient's boundaries. Some patients feel comforted when their hand is held or they are offered a hug, while other patients may find these actions uncomfortable. Always respect differences in personality and cultures.

Showing a genuine interest in the patient's life and situation is another way to encourage a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship. This can be accomplished by taking a few minutes to build rapport with a patient. It's also supported when you actively listen to a patient. For example, a nurse might say, 'Jane, you mentioned that you're feeling concerned about what the lab tests might reveal.' By restating a patient's statement, you reassure her that her concerns have been heard and that you're interested in her well-being.

Empathy is another component that is essential to a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship. When a nurse shows empathy, she demonstrates that she understands a patient's feelings. To effectively show empathy, a nurse must be able to pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues shared by the patient. For example, if a patient is pacing the floor after learning that her cancer has spread, a nurse might say, 'Jane, I see you're tense. How can I help you?'


Displaying these components helps a patient work through their issues and successfully moves them through the three phases of a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship, which are the orientation phase, the working phase, and the termination phase. Yet, even before the nurse and patient meet, we could say that there is a pre-interaction phase. In this phase, the nurse must become aware of her own personal feelings, fears, and worries about working with a patient. This self-awareness allows a nurse to accept a patient's differences without judgment.

The orientation phase is the period when the nurse and patient first meet and goals are set. The goal of the orientation phase is to build trust and respect. During this phase, the roles and limitations of the relationship are communicated through pleasant greetings, eye contact, and mindfulness of the patient's boundaries. It's during the orientation phase that the nurse attempts to discover why the patient is seeking help and what their goals are. Displaying a genuine interest in the patient and showing empathy can help during this information gathering phase.

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