Therapeutic Nursing Interventions: Examples & Overview

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Drawing bloodwork and performing invasive procedures does not necessarily make a nursing intervention therapeutic. Read this lesson to learn what therapeutic nursing interventions are and how they apply to common practice.

Providing Therapeutic Nursing Interventions

Interventions are action plans put in place to fix a problem or health condition. In nursing, interventions are not meant to be curative (healing), they are meant to comfort and assist patients by supporting or carrying out medical orders and interventions. Therapeutic nursing interventions help to alleviate symptoms, decrease pain, and incorporate holistic care (care that accommodates a person's physical, psychological, spiritual, and social needs).

Healing vs. Comfort

Nancy is a nurse who has been working on a medical-surgical unit for the past few years. She works the evening shift and therefore has the opportunity to interact with physicians as well as family members when they come to visit their loved ones. Nancy has a lot of experience in many different units and hospitals but has always enjoyed this particular setting. On this unit, she learned to balance the needs of patients, their family members, and the medical team.

Nurses like Nancy are responsible for carrying out physician or provider orders, which are also considered interventions. What makes these interventions different from therapeutic interventions is that they are medical in nature, in an effort to heal or cure medical symptoms or problems.

Making Interventions Therapeutic

Nancy carries out many doctor's orders throughout her shift. An example of Nancy supporting a medical intervention would be for her to administer a medicine or to apply a designated treatment to a deep wound. A therapeutic intervention would require Nancy to tailor or personalize treatments to what works well for that patient. This requires her to sometimes go above and beyond simply carrying out doctor's orders.

With a little creativity, Nancy can turn a standard order into therapeutic treatment. Here are two examples:

Medication Administration

As mentioned, Nancy is responsible for ensuring that patients receive their medication. This means that medicines are delivered safely and on time. Through her years of nursing experience, Nancy has learned that patients may have preferences on how they take their medicine. For example, some patients may prefer that they receive their medicine with applesauce or food, which may help to prevent an upset stomach. As the nurse, Nancy is aware that when it doesn't interfere with how the medicine works, offering snacks along with medicines or along with meals may help reduce common medication side effects like indigestion, upset stomach, and reflux.

Painful Treatments

Nurses can find creative ways to show compassion by taking standard treatments and making them therapeutic. Nancy recently cared for a patient with extensive burns who experienced a lot of pain during dressing changes and wound care. The treatments were originally ordered for 8 AM daily. After learning more about her patient, Nancy found out that he worked nights for the past 40 years, and had a sleep routine that consisted of 8 hours of sleep during the day time.

Nancy realized that the 8 AM treatments were almost intolerable for her patient despite receiving pain medication. She spoke with her patient and learned that he was exhausted by 8 AM, making him irritable and especially sensitive to pain at that time. He was receptive to having the treatment time changed. Because the treatment was a medical order, she spoke with the physician who agreed to change the time to 8 PM which was much more tolerable for the patient.

As a Part of Practice

Nancy also found other nursing interventions that were therapeutic for her patients that did not require a medical order. The more time and effort she took to learn about her patients, the more she was able to modify and augment their experience. Nancy realized a few critical things to keep in mind:

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