Building Relationships with Patients and Families

Building Relationships with Patients and Families

Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP) are committed to providing holistic, patient-centered care that meets the needs of the entire family. This requires an ability to build relationships across generations, from pediatric patients and teens to adults and senior citizens. Success as an FNP also demands an understanding of the individual within the context of the family.

Family Nursing Theory

While there are multiple academic theories on the importance of family nursing, all are based on assessing the health of the entire family in terms of physical, mental, societal, and environmental conditions.

These theories look at the interconnectedness among family members, and how the health of one impacts the others. The family theory also considers what household events are underway, and whether those play a role in terms of stress and well-being.

In addition, the Family Nurse Practitioner must be aware that today’s American families do not follow the traditional model, e.g., two married parents and children.  Single parent and blended households are prevalent now. FNPs can also expect to see grandparents who are raising their grandchildren and alternative “communal” families.

Communication across the Generations

Many patients choose a Family Nurse Practitioner because their focus on holistic care takes all aspects of well-being into consideration. A true concern for the preventive care and healthy behaviors takes center stage.

Effective communication is an important part of all relationships, and it helps to motivate, build trust, and create shared understanding and engagement among nurses and their patients.  Nurse practitioners utilize patient-centered communication techniques to improve health outcomes. These communication techniques may consist of the following:

  • Using easy-to-understand communication that integrates clear, simple or plain language.
  • Limiting to 2 or 3 concepts presented at a time.
  • Confirming understanding with the teach-back method.
  • Handing out printed or written materials.
  • Collaborating on longer-term outcomes for overall health and wellness.

The emphasis on communication helps to cement the trust between the patient and FNP, setting the stage for a partnership that can last for decades. The ability of FNPs to develop a genuine connection and comfort level with their patients has everything to do with the commitment to deliver high-quality care.

Providing a Medical Home for Families

The trend toward primary care practices reorganizing to become “medical homes” plays directly into the Family Nurse Practitioner’s wheelhouse. Goals of a medical home are to provide convenience, service, and satisfaction through care that is:

  • Compassionate, respectful, and dignified.
  • More easily accessible, with evening and weekend hours.
  • Coordinated and comprehensive, from preventive care to acute care for physical and mental health needs.
  • Technology-enabled to improve communication via email, chat, mobile apps, and electronic patient portals.
  • Based on the principles of quality and safety, with an educational aspect to family health and decision making.

Choosing to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

If you find value and satisfaction in building relationships with your patients and their families, the FNP role may be a natural progression for your career. Consider pursuing a CCNE accredited online Master of Science in Nursing that offers a specialization in Family Nurse Practitioner studies. The additional education can set you on a rewarding path forward.


Where is Family in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program? Results of a U.S. Family Nurse Practitioner Program Survey

Jones & Bartlett Learning, The Nurse Practitioner – Patient Relationship

Nurse Practitioners’ Use of Communication Techniques: Results of a Maryland Oral Health Literacy Survey

Fact Sheet: The Medical Home – What Is It? How Do Nurse Practitioners Fit In?

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