What Does the Art of Nursing Have to Do with the Patient Experience?

In a word:


The healthcare environment is a gigantic, fast-paced, overwhelming, and confusing experience for most patients. If it is the patient’s first time interacting with the world of healthcare, you can almost guarantee they will feel lost.

Couple that with the very fact that a meeting with a healthcare system often means bad news, unpleasant findings, or emotional turmoil… the patient is the least bit focused on what the healthcare professional is saying!

In fact, nurses and other healthcare providers are offering resources such as blogs, podcasts, and other patient advocacy materials to help patients navigate the twists and turns in their healthcare journey.

The Patient Experience

OK. We get it. To be a patient in today’s healthcare environment is difficult, at best.

As nurses, we hear terms like “patient experience” or “patient satisfaction” and unfortunately because of poor communication, presentation, and marketing- roll our eyes in dismissal.

Yes, let’s be honest. If you head over to any social media platform or enter any nursing discussion forum, you will find posts and discussions venting about the fact that the hospital is not a hotel.

But let’s back up here for a second, and ask ourselves some very honest questions:

  • Do you think that the patient, who is lying there suffering and scared in the bed, wants to be in the hospital?
  • If you were a patient, would you want to be treated with comfort, care, dignity, and respect?
  • What if you were sick? Would you want the things (e.g. food, toiletries, and bedding) to make you feel better?

It is understandable that a nurse does not want to feel as though they work in a hotel or restaurant. Yet at the same time, part of the nurse’s role is to provide comfort to the patient. In every and any way that he or she can.

In fact, Florence Nightingale, the founder of nursing believed in the comfort and care of the patient and the nurse’s role in creating the very best:

“The focus of nursing in this model is to alter the patient’s environment in order to affect change in his or her health. The environmental factors that affect health, as identified in the theory, are: fresh air, pure water, sufficient food supplies, efficient drainage, cleanliness of the patient and environment, and light (particularly direct sunlight). If any of these areas is lacking, the patient may experience diminished health. A nurse’s role in a patient’s recovery is to alter the environment in order to gradually create the optimal conditions for the patient’s body to heal itself. In some cases, this would mean minimal noise and in other cases could mean a specific diet. All of these areas can be manipulated to help the patient meet his or her health goals and get healthy.” (From Nursing Theory, Environmental Theory)

Enter The Art of Nursing

[bctt tweet=”What does the art of nursing have to do with the patient experience?” username=”ElizabethScala”]

Well, as we said… it is everything. But in terms of this particular post, let’s go through a few specific ways.

Here Are 3 Ways the Art of Nursing Impacts the Patient Experience:

1. Safer Outcomes

If a nurse is distracted, she or he can make a mistake. An obvious statement, correct? OK, but what about this…

The science. Bells, alarms, numbers, lab values. These are the sciences of nursing practice. And while these scientific systems are necessary for safe patient care, they can also get in the way.

What!?! How’s that?

I have interviewed dozens of nurses on the Your Next Shift podcast. On the program I ask each guest, “What’s your biggest failure as a nurse and what did you learn from it?”

Multiple nurses have responded with a patient care experience where they made a mistake. They go on to tell the story in full detail, describing the fact that they were paying great attention to the monitor or pump. Yet, why did they make an error?

The nurse did not trust his or her gut instinct.

They failed to pause and come present to what their nursing intuition was telling them. This is the “art” of nursing in practice.

While a nurse can use the bells and whistles to assess and evaluate the patient, they also need to listen to what they are not reading on a screen.

Even when a patient is telling you: “I am fine”, learn to look into their eyes. Feel their energy. Notice their posture and body language. Read between the words that they are speaking to you.

2. Patient Satisfaction

Yes, I know. Don’t throw things at the screen or bang my post against your wall! Patient satisfaction, the constant focus and pressure coming from our institutions. The surveys, the scripts.

As was stated above, patient satisfaction has gotten a bad reputation from the overkill of numbers that get drilled into our brains. But let’s all pause. Breathe. Because patient satisfaction and the art of nursing are closely linked.

And guess what? By practicing the art of nursing, you will not need those scripted lines or fake smiles that we are taught in nursing orientation.

The art of nursing is about being still. Placing a hand on the patient’s back. Deep listening. Reflecting back what is heard. Coming from presence and understanding. Putting yourself in the patient’s shoes.

This list could go on and on. And happily, on! A few months ago, I actually wrote a post about this. I asked nurses across the country to tell me about their art in nursing practice examples. There was such a great response that I turned this into a blog post. You can come up with many more ways of bringing the art into your nursing career by reading “10 Outstanding Examples of Art of Nursing in Practice.”

Even though we as nurses need to be on our computers, charting patient experiences… we can blend the science with the art and have an effect on patient satisfaction.

3. Nurse Satisfaction

The profession of nursing is tough. We have extremely busy work. It feels as though, when we leave our shift, we question did we even get to make a difference in a patient’s life today.

Guess what?

The art of nursing can impact your satisfaction with your nursing career.

One of the component’s of burnout is experiencing a disconnect. This means that the nurse leave work and can no longer connect with the joy or purpose of their role. Sad.

By inviting more of the art into a nursing career, you can re-energize the spirit of nursing alive within you!

Above, in the patient satisfaction content, we talked about pausing and coming present with patients. You can do something similar to invite more appreciation to your nursing practice.

Savor the good patient encounters. Any time a patient says “thank you” or has a successful outcome, bask in that feeling. Celebrate it publicly and privately. Go home and write about it in a journal. Keep a box filled with ideal patient encounters to come back to and review.

Reflect on why you are a nurse. What was the reason you entered the profession? Why do you enjoy nursing? What is it about your nursing career that you do appreciate?

There is an art to enjoying nursing overtime. It is called nursing from within and it is about remembering the joy of being a nurse again.

OK! Let’s hear from you. What does the art of nursing have to do with the patient experience? What is another way that you see these two linked? Share a comment below and thanks for reading! 

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within’, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.