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What are Fundamental Nursing Concepts?

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There are four main concepts in nursing that a nursing student needs to be familiar with before she can begin caring for patients. These concepts provide the basis for nursing education programs and teach the skills necessary for nursing, such as leadership and decision making. They also teach students how to interact with and care for patients. The four concepts of nursing are human being (the patient as a whole person), environment, health and nursing.

Human Being

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The first basic concept is that of the human being, or that each person comprises several different aspects to create a whole. This includes psychological, social, physical and spiritual areas of a person's life. It also includes cultural aspects that might be important to the patient. Understanding how a patient is more than just the medical condition that brought him into the hospital is essential to his care.


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A patient's environment, which includes where they spend their time and their socio-economic status, as well as the people within their environment, is another concept of nursing. One of the most influential aspects of environment is the health care a person has access to. For example, the health of someone who has had regular access to quality health care has a better chance of catching serious conditions, such as cancer, in the very early stages, giving them a better chance of recovery. An individual who does not have this access to health care might have the same problems, but might not catch it as early, resulting in a less optimistic prognosis. Environment also includes the social support a patient receives and the environment of the hospital, which is partially controlled by nurses. A comfortable environment and proper care can influence the speed of a patient's recovery.


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The third fundamental concept in nursing is health. Nurses need to be continuously aware of the health of their patients. Nurses usually focus first on the patient's main health complaint, but they also must pay attention to any other possible symptoms, and the overall wellness of the patient. For example, an older woman who is seeking treatment for a heart condition might also be having problems with medication side effects. She might also be worried about her health in general, and need reassurance. A nurse would make note of the secondary health concerns, and try to reassure the patient, as well as letting the doctor know of the patient's concerns.


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The fourth concept is the actual process of nursing. As a concept, nursing is considered not only a science, but also an art, according to the Chinese Medical University. It includes learning leadership, decision making, and approaches for meeting all of a patient's needs, not just their immediate health concerns. It involves both teaching and learning, ethical and legal training, the ability to work within a team and quick reasoning skills. The four main duties of a nurse as part of the nursing concept are to promote well-being, prevent disease and injury, assist in healing and do whatever is possible to ease suffering, as long as it is both ethical and legal.