Anything but basic: Nursing's challenge in meeting patients' fundamental care needs

J Nurs Scholarsh. 2014 Sep;46(5):331-9. doi: 10.1111/jnu.12081. Epub 2014 Apr 23.


Purpose: Nursing has not explored the fundamental aspects of patient care in a systematic, conceptually coherent, scientific way, and this has created a number of ongoing challenges.

Organizing construct: Each challenge is identified and addressed in the form of a proposition, with evidence provided to support the arguments put forward and defend the proposed actions.

Findings: The challenges include: the need for an integrated way of thinking about the fundamentals of care from a conceptual, methodological, and practical perspective; the ongoing and unresolved tension in nursing practice between a depersonalized and mechanistic approach (termed a "task and time" driven culture) and the need for consistency around understanding and managing the dynamics of the nurse-patient relationship or encounter (termed a "thinking and linking" approach); and the need for a systematic approach to the fundamentals or basics of care that combines the physical, psychosocial, and relational dimensions of the care encounter within the wider context of the care environment. Pragmatic and practical frameworks are needed to ensure that the basic physical and psychosocial needs of patients are embedded not only in the practice but also in the thinking, reflection, and assessment processes of the nurse.

Conclusions: Nursing's challenge to meet patients' basic or fundamental needs is complex. Developing a knowledge base will include identifying researchable questions, using rigorous methodologies, ensuring the relational dimensions are not lost, and ensuring the new knowledge is applied in practice. This requires collaboration on an international scale to achieve improvements in care.

Clinical relevance: To work collaboratively to generate, test, and implement meaningful ways of capturing nursing practice around basic or fundamental care in order to ensure more integrated, holistic patient care nursing practices.

Keywords: Fundamentals of care; nursing; patient's experiences; relationship.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Care / standards*
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Nursing Process*
  • Thinking