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Why Low-Tech Skills Still Matter in Nursing

Why Low-Tech Skills Still Matter in Nursing

Jennnifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN | NursingLink


Remember when back rubs were a standard part of patient care? Those days may be long gone, but science is showing us that those back rubs were beneficial. Massage has been scientifically proven to decrease pain, anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, stress, nausea and fatigue. A study in Cancer Nursing found that a simple 10-minute foot massage has a “significant, immediate effect of the perception of pain, nausea and relaxation…”

The most effective touches seem to be those that express care or concern. Nurses touch patients incidentally while performing procedures, but the effect of perfunctory touch is not the same as that of caring touch. Reaching out to hold a patient’s hand, putting your hand on his shoulder or offering a hug when you see tears in your patient’s eyes goes beyond basic nursing care to offer human support and comfort which may decrease discomfort, stress and fatigue.

One caution: Not all patients are open to non-care-related touch. Watch your patients for clues. If they’re touchy-feely with their family, odds are, they’re open to physical touch. But constantly re-assess the situation. If your patient tenses up when you touch her shoulder, back off. You may want to ask permission before touching patients. I’ll occasionally hug patients, but I always ask permission first.


Depending on your personal beliefs and spirituality, praying with a patient can seem like an intrusion of privacy, an imposition of belief or an essential spiritual intervention. And as Winslow and Winslow noted in “Examining the Ethics of Praying with Patients,” the idea of praying with patients brings up a host of questions, including:

• If prayer is believed to be genuinely beneficial, should nurses go beyond offering to pray with patients and urge patients to engage in prayer?
• If patients are given the option of prayer with a nurse, will those who reject prayer be likely to wonder how this will affect the rest of their care?
• What about patients whose religious practices differ greatly from those of their nurse?
• Can the nurses, with integrity, participate in forms of prayer that are contrary to the nurse’s own belief system?
• What should be done with patients’ requests for prayer if the nurse does not believe in prayer at all?

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