How family nursing can promote shared decision-making and patient safety

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of The Patients Association

In our recent report, Being a Patient, we found that patients found being ill frustrating, frightening and left them feeling vulnerable. Although the report also identified positive aspects, such as having received high quality care, and valuing the expertise of the clinicians who treated them, our overall findings were a reminder of the basic realities of being ill.

Because the experience of being ill is still such a difficult one for so many patients, The Patients Association welcomes the establishment of the UK and Ireland Chapter of the International Family Nursing Association. We are hopeful that a professional organisation committed to supporting patients and their families will support, facilitate and empower patients and their families in shared decision making and help them make informed decisions.

Truly engaging patients to make shared decisions about their medical care was identified as akin to a blockbuster drug, nearly a decade ago. Some American academics even went as far as suggesting not to do so was malpractice.

Yet, despite the evidence of how patient engagement improves health outcomes, it is an area that needs improvement in most sectors of the health and social care.

For the Patients Association, the ethos behind family nursing is one we are looking forward to seeing more of in the NHS. Families influence, and are influenced by, how individual family members respond to life changes. A family nursing approach has been shown to deliver positive changes to patient engagement, which are good for the individual and her family.

The benefits flow from the greater awareness of the needs and concerns of patients and families, nurses practicing family nursing gain, which in turn lead to enhanced family communication and increased support from family members. In the case of treatment decisions, there’s evidence that nurses often act as patient advocates for patients and families, especially in cases where a patient would decline treatment.

Also critical to the Patients Association, is patient safety. We are excited to see how growing numbers of nurses practicing family nursing might be able to improve patient safety. We believe the act of listening to patients and their families has power and we welcome the arrival of the International Family Nursing Association to the UK and Ireland.