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Program Teaches Nurses to Manage, Apply Emotions

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, July 8, 2014

The Four Habits model, used to improve patient-physician communication, can also prepare nurses to deliver relationship-centered care more effectively, study data shows.

When it comes to patient care, there's a technical side and an emotional side. The best nurses are masters of both, and according to a new study, a set of commonly used physician communication skills that aim to improve on the care provider's soft skills can be effectively applied to nursing training, too.

"I really believe relationship-centered care is really what it's about," the study's first author Mark J. Fisher, Ph.D., RN, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, told me in an interview.

"Simply communicating using technical skills and focusing purely on information can provide a level of care, but I'm not sure it's the highest level or the most effective level."

The study found that a nurse training program based on the Four Habits Model "improves newly licensed nurses' self-perception of their preparation for emotion-focused conversations with parents" of pediatric patients.

The Four Habits are commonly used in physician training programs to help improve patient-physician communication, says Fisher, who tweaked the model slightly to study its effectiveness for pediatric nurses.

"My experience in the pediatric hospital setting and interactions with nursing students revealed many newly licensed nurses and most nursing students were quite anxious about talking with parents of children in the hospital setting," Fisher told me by email after our phone conversation.

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