The Importance of Psychology in Nursing

Written by Brandon L.
February 20, 202414 min read

Psychology is an important field of study that covers the mental and behavioral aspects of a person. A lot of people will not associate psychology with nursing because these two disciplines have major differences, but research shows that there is a link between the two. Nurses who can successfully integrate psychology into their practices can provide quality care and improve patient outcomes. This is also critical considering how important mental health is to the overall health.

In this article, our nursing writers will help you understand how psychology and nursing relate so that you can successfully integrate it into your education and practices.

What is Nursing?

According to the Royal College of Nursing, nursing refers to the use of clinical judgments to provide care to help people improve, maintain, and recover their health, cope with their health issues, and achieve the best quality of life irrespective of their diseases or disability unit they die.

What is Psychology?

The word psychology is made up of two Greek words, "Psyche" and "logos." Psyche means the mind and all it entails. Logos means the study of. Thus, psychology is the scientific study of a person’s mind, behaviors, thought processes, and emotions as they relate to the outer world to understand them better. Its main aim is to describe, explain, predict, or control a person's behavior in all areas of life, including health.   

Psychology doesn't just seek to control a person's behavior but also change it in the same way nurses do. For instance, nurses will help patients understand why health-related changes are necessary and, more importantly, why they will benefit them.

Psychology helps healthcare professionals such as nurses in the following ways:

  1. Understand their behaviors and those of others.
  2. Understand why they are behaving the way they do. Nurses work in places where they are forced to interact with different kinds of people; through psychology, they can better understand how to interact and help them in their situations.
  3. Understand how psychological knowledge and procedures can be applied while attending to a patient.
  4. Help nursing students better prepare to deal with different types of patients during their practice.
  5. Nurses and psychologists seek to understand a patient's behavior and change their thought processes to influence a change of behaviors.  
  6. Nurses can borrow psychological theories and research and use them to enhance their clinical practice.
  7. Nurses can understand their skills and abilities, how they think and feel, and what truly makes them human. This will allow them to be kinder to themselves and give them the same to those they come in contact with.

Types of Psychology Perspectives

In psychology, there are several different ways in which one can try to understand a person; these ways are called perspectives. Each of these perspectives offers an opportunity for nurses to understand themselves and those they come into contact with during their practice. The most commonly used perspectives in psychology include:

Biological Perspectives

This perspective seeks to understand whether people inherit certain behaviors and traits through genetics. It also seeks to understand how the development of hormones, chromosomes, and the brain influence behaviors. The biological perspective suggests that people's behavior is due to changes in their chemical structure and the chemical reactions occurring in the nervous and endocrine systems.

Biopsychologists understand that the following can influence people's behavior:

  1. Genes.
  2. Anatomical differences.
  3. A person’s development through their lifespan.
  4. Biological systems such as:

A biological understanding of how and why people behave the way they do is important for nurses and other healthcare workers. They understand that people’s behavior could be affected by the following:

With this understanding, they can offer appropriate interventions to patients. For instance, by understanding the biological risk factors or a certain illness, nurses can come up with preventive measures to lower a person’s risks, such as patient education.

Psychodynamic Perspective

Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist, influenced the psychodynamic perspective. It emphasizes how the unconscious mind influences behavior. According to Freud, a person undergoes internal turmoil before they behave in a particular way. He suggests that the mind is composed of three key elements that are influential in how a person behaves: the id, the ego, and the superego.

Freud also adds that childhood experiences shape a person's personality. He suggests that early life experiences, including those occurring a few moments after birth, can have a long-lasting effect on a person's personality. This is because, during infancy, a child's brain is rapidly developing.

For instance, positive experiences such as healthy love, safety, and trust create a foundation for stable emotional development. On the contrary, negative life experiences such as abusive behavior can lead to fear and attachment issues during adulthood.

Thus, the psychodynamic perspective proposes that by focusing on the unconscious mental processes, one can understand a person's behavior and personality.

With this understanding, nurses and other healthcare providers can provide valuable insights into how human behavior is complex and develop effective interventions to rectify bad behaviors.

The psychodynamic perspective helps nurses understand the connection between the mind and the body as a crucial aspect of nursing.

Behavioral Psychology Perspective

Behavioral psychology is focused on learned behaviors. This perspective is based on the works of Edward Thorndike and John B. Watson. They propose that every human behavior, including personality, is learned. Unlike other perspective which focuses on internal states, behavioral psychology focuses on observable behaviors.

In behavioral perspectives, there are several ways in which behavior is learned, which becomes the building blocks of learning, from the foundation level of habituation to the complex social learning theory.

Behavioralist suggests that people have no control over their environment which is a key determinant in how they behave. They believe through the process of conditioning, behavior is simply a response to their environment.

In healthcare, the behavioral perspective provides a contextual framework for understanding a patient’s behavior and provides alternative approaches to nursing practice to improve the effectiveness of patient care.

When psychologists and nurses understand their patients’ behaviors, they can use evidence-based measures such as cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy to rectify a person’s behavior.

Cognitive Perspective

Between the 1950s and 1970s, researchers became more interested in how people think as it affected behavior. This period was later referred to as "cognitive revolution."

Before this time, behavioralists dominated the field of psychology. However, researchers become more interested in how our thinking shapes behavior instead of just the behavior. This includes a person's ability to effectively communicate, attend to, and remember things.

Cognitive psychology has greatly influenced health psychology, which has greatly influenced the development of health promotion. It led to the realization that experiments can help study internal mental behavior.

This psychological perspective assumes that there is an internal process that occurs when a person is affected by a stimulus and when they respond to it. Thus, cognitive psychologist believes that for one to understand behavior, one must learn these internal processes.

The cognitive perspective has contributed significantly to nursing practices. For instance, it has helped in the advancements of pain management. Studies have shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy, such as relaxation techniques, has helped patients deal with a range of issues, including coping with pain.

Humanistic Psychological Perspective

This perspective originated from Carl Rogers (1902 - 1987), Rollo May (born 1909), and Abraham Maslow (1916- 1972), who argued that human behavior is a result of free will.

Humanists suggest that a person is free to decide what their behaviors and actions are going to be and that personality development is from the development of the self. When this happens, it is referred to as humanism.

The humanistic approach focuses on the importance of focusing on the consciousness and self-awareness of a person to understand behavior.

While it recognizes that behavior is learned, it acknowledges that a person is an individual with unique potential. For this reason, all people are gravitating towards self-actualization to reach their fullest potential.

While attending to patients, nurses can focus on providing individualist care by considering their holistic needs, considering that every person is unique in their way. During assessment, nurses can take time to prioritize understanding the following about the patients:

  1. Physical health.
  2. Psychological well being
  3. Social support systems
  4. Cultural and spiritual beliefs
  5. Environmental factors
  6. Health literacy.

By considering all the above factors, a nurse can gain a comprehensive understanding of the patient's needs and provide an individualized care plan that is responsive to their own needs.

Nurses who integrate humanist perspectives will focus their attention on the patient rather than their illnesses.

This means that the nurse will involve the patient in matters such as decision-making and educating them about their health. Research has shown that this approach is critical in enhancing patient recovery and increasing patient satisfaction.

Research Methods in Psychology

In psychology, one must have a deep understanding of the different human behaviors and mental processes to come up with effective solutions. The same applies to nursing. To gain this knowledge, one must gather useful information through the following research methods:

Experiments/Quasi-experimental Methodology

This type of experiment helps to establish a cause-and-effect relationship for a particular illness. In these methods, all variables are eliminated except those on the research question. It is mostly conducted in controlled environments such as laboratories where distractions can be eliminated.

The limitation of quasi-experimental methodology is that it does not provide sufficient insight into a person's behavior in the real world. In other words, it lacks ecological validity.

Nurses can use this research method to improve patient satisfaction and care experiences. Consider the following example.

Consider the following examples: quasi-experiments can be used to determine whether night shift nurses make drug errors more than those who work during the day owing to their blood sugars.

Researchers would test this hypothesis by selecting a group of night shift nurses who would be put in a controlled environment and given drug calculations to do. All the nurses will be tested before the experiment to ensure they all have similar test scores.

Observational Research Methods

This type of qualitative research is where researchers observe people's behavior in their natural settings. Behaviorists use observational research methods to assess a stimulus-response situation.

A big part of the nurse's role is to observe the patient's behavior. So, they can be considered to be doing observational research in their day-to-day practice.

Nurses play a crucial role in observing and understanding a patient's behavior to provide optimal care.

By using psychological perspectives, nurses can understand their patients and improve patient outcomes. Additionally, through psychology, nurses can nurture their relationships with patients and promote a culture of trust where patients feel seen and valued.

Techniques Used in Psychological Interventions for Psychology and Nursing

Various therapeutic approaches can help improve the health of patients. Nurses can work alongside psychologists to ensure they receive the right treatment.

1. Cognitive–behavioral therapies:

2. Relationship-based interventions (RBIs):

3. Systemic interventions:

4. Psychoeducation.

5. Activity-based therapies.

Final Word on the Link Between Psychology and Nursing

The link between psychology and nursing is crucial in understanding patients' behavior and providing high-quality care to all patients. Nurses who can incorporate psychology in their work can successfully address the emotional and physical needs of patients. By recognizing the factors that influence patients’ behavior, nurses can incorporate appropriate interventions into their practice.

If you need help with any of your nursing papers or to understand more about psychology and nursing, our writers can help. Try us today for high-quality papers. We have qualified nursing assignment writers who will come through for you on any nursing school homework.

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