Many people, especially of older generations, tend to think of a nurse as only a doctor’s assistant, a waitress, or a butt wiper. However, now nurses are doctor’s colleagues, their eyes and ears, and their primary goal is patient advocacy. But in order to care for someone, nurses must have knowledge of not only procedures, diagnoses, and treatment, but they must also understand what is going on with the patient on mental level, which, without an understanding of psychology, would not be possible.
Medical issues may trigger or aggravate psychological issues, such as depression in patients or family members who are scared of what they are going through. It is important for nurses to be able to spot such conditions, so doctors can be alerted, and interventions can be planned. With knowledge of psychology, nurses are also more prepared to deal with patients who may seem “difficult.” Knowing what to look for, nurses are able to look past that obscure label, and make figure out if patients are just don’t want to take medication or be treated, or if there is some unexpressed emotion, such as fear, anger, or frustration. Once the reason for resistance is determined, the nurse is able to do education and counseling to help the patient work through their emotions or resistance, and hopefully persuade them to following the proposed plan of treatment. Equally important to patient care, is the development of therapeutic relationships.
Nurses who want to integrate more psychology into their practice might choose to work as a psychiatric nurse, which may include taking care of suicidal patients, bipolar patients, or patients with other forms of mental illness. In this field, an understanding of psychology is very important, as well as a solid medical background, since amongst psychiatrists and psychologists, the psychiatric nurse may be the only one with a general medical background. Nurses who want to focus on using even more psychology into their practice would have to pursue a Masters degree, and become a Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, who would be able to diagnose illness and prescribe medication, and other treatments.
No matter what specialty a nurse chooses to work in, be it hospice, with the focus counseling and comforting dying patients and scared families, or the opposite end of the lifespan in pediatrics, nurses will always find rewarding jobs, and make a difference in the lives of their patients. No matter where a nurse is working, they will always have the opportunity to employ some part of psychology in their practice.
The point of studying psychology for students who are non-psychology majors is to obtain basic knowledge about why people behave and think the way they do. This is important for a solid liberal arts education. Nurses especially should know their psychology because they are often right in the midst of major life events of their patients--deaths, births, major illness, rehabilitation and recovery, etc. Understanding psychology helps the nurse to anticipate what the patient and his/her family will be feeling and the way they may react. This helps the nurse to better plan nursing interventions. Studying psychology also helps the nurse understand why patients respond the way they do in difficult situations and helps the nurse to be compassionate, not judgemental. nurses need to study psychology so they can use reverse psychology to get patients to calm or sit still, or go to the operation room or something without too much of a hassle.