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Nursing Interventions: a Comprehensive Guide to Mastering the Core Step of Nursing Practice

Nursing Interventions: a Comprehensive Guide to Mastering the Core Step of Nursing Practice

Registered Nurses are an invaluable link in the healthcare environment. Their selfless care contributes to the patients’ wellbeing, coping, and recovery. To achieve all these goals and offer the best possible nursing care, RNs follow what is commonly known in professional circles as the nursing process – a systematic five-stage guide to offering high-quality, patient-centric care. 

The nursing process has one essential, tangible outcome – the nursing care plan – a detailed outline that guides the process of providing care. The care plan, much like the nursing process, includes several steps which the nurse uses to formulate the direction of care. These are the nursing diagnosis, expected outcomes, interventions, and evaluation. 

Thus, nursing interventions are an integral part of the nursing care plan. In this comprehensive guide, we will put nursing interventions under the microscope. What types of interventions exist? Why do they matter? What are some of the most common nursing interventions you can expect to perform daily once you get that much-coveted RN title? 

Let’s find out together. 

What Are Nursing Interventions?

Before we delve into the different classifications of nursing interventions, it may be helpful to take a moment to define what nursing interventions are. 

Checking a medical dictionary gives us the following definition for nursing interventions:

“an action or activity undertaken by a nurse to address a specific client problem and to improve, maintain, or restore health or to prevent illness.”

Essentially, nursing interventions are all the actions nurses take to implement care plans with the overarching goal of improving, maintaining, or restoring a patient’s state. These may include therapies, procedures, or education opportunities. As long as a measure or activity aids in treating a patient and aims to increase their health and comfort, it will count as a nursing intervention. 

Most interventions are part of the nursing routine: administering medication, turning patients to prevent bedsores, offering feeding assistance, and many more. But, in general, there are hundreds of possible nursing interventions. In the following sections, we will explore what they are and what categories they fall under.

nursing interventions examples

What Are the Categories of Nursing Interventions?

Registered Nurses always act as a part of a bigger healthcare team. In the process of caring for a single patient, there’s an army of nurses, aides, physicians, physical therapists, therapists who all collaborate to ensure the best patient outcomes. 

With that in mind, an initial categorization for nursing interventions is related to the nurse’s level of involvement in carrying out the intervention. 

Independent nursing interventions are the actions that nurses can perform without assistance or guidance from other medical professionals, particularly without a doctor’s orders. For the most part, these are routine interventions such as checking a patient’s vitals, educating them on how to take medication, or repositioning a client.

Dependent nursing interventions are the actions that a nurse cannot initiate of their own accord but must instead follow a physician’s orders. Administering prescribed medications is one example of this type of intervention. 

Interdependent nursing interventions are sometimes also referred to as collaborative interventions. They are the actions that include healthcare team members across the board. For instance, a physician may prescribe medication, the nurse will administer it, and another step in the treatment is performed by a physical therapist. Thus, professionals from multiple disciplines collaborate in the same plan of care. 

What Role Does Assessment Play in Choosing Interventions?

Nursing assessment is the first step in the nursing process. It is the one that informs all the subsequent phases, including interventions. 

During the assessment stage, nurses gather information about the patient’s state or condition. This may include objective or subjective data. Some of the ways in which the nurse can conduct the assessment include: performing a head-to-toe physical examination, checking vital signs, talking with the patient or their family, reading diagnostic tests. 

Once they have a comprehensive corpus of data about the patient’s health situation, the nurse can move on to formulate a nursing diagnosis. Based on that, they can create a care plan for the patient, including the specific nursing interventions required to achieve the desired health goals. So, nursing interventions draw from the assessment phase and are tailored to each patient’s unique needs. 

RN interventions

How Are Nursing Interventions Classified?

There is a wide variety of medical needs and conditions that nurses help patients fight and overcome. Based on the medical needs they cater to, nursing interventions are further classified into seven important categories: community, family, behavioral, physiological basic, physiological complex, safety, and health system. 

This classification was introduced in the book Nursing Interventions Classifications (NIC), 7th edition, which provides a research-based clinical tool to help nurses choose appropriate interventions from over 550 options.  

Let’s take a closer look at each of these categories and the ensuing nursing interventions.  

Community Nursing Intervention

In many medical facilities, there is a focus on public health initiatives. These actions aim to educate larger groups of people: patients, their families, and local communities, in general, about matters of general health and wellbeing. Education programs for diabetes, vaccination campaigns on a larger scale, breast cancer awareness movements – these are some examples of public health initiatives in which nurses can take part, subsequently requiring interventions on their part. 

Family Nursing Interventions

Certain nursing interventions are directed at a patient’s family as much as to the patients themselves. For example, suppose a patient is diagnosed with a transmittable disease. In that case, the nurse must educate the entire family on ways to reduce the threat of the illness. Or, when a child is born, the nurse may instruct or assist the mother with breastfeeding her newborn or offer other forms of infant care to the parents. 

Behavioral Nursing Interventions

If a patient is battling addiction, wants to quit smoking, or needs to learn how to use an assistive device, the Registered Nurse will have to engage in behavioral nursing interventions. These types of actions are aimed at helping the patient learn methods to change a specific behavior. Some more examples include: educating the patient about using a new mobility aid, like a prosthetic leg, or providing coping mechanisms against stress; suggesting physical coping mechanisms to substance abuse.

Physiological Basic Nursing Interventions

Physiological basic nursing interventions are simple actions nurses perform to assist patients with their physical health. These procedures range from exercise and offering feeding or bathing assistance to measuring a patient’s blood pressure or temperature. 

Physiological Complex Nursing Interventions

This category includes a more complex set of interventions aimed at helping a patient with their physical health. An excellent example of a physiological complex nursing intervention would be providing IV fluids. This intervention requires a combination of smaller tasks – inserting the needle, administering medication, and keeping an eye on the patient. 

Safety Nursing Interventions

Helping patients maintain their safety and preventing further injury is an integral part of a nurse’s job. That’s where safety nursing interventions come in. Safety interventions come in many forms: from educating a patient (or their family) on postoperative care and teaching them how to use a walker safely after a hip replacement to giving instructions on how to use the alarm in case they want to move to avoid risk of falls to showing a disoriented patient back to their room. 

Health System Nursing Interventions

This type of nursing intervention is usually collaborative and includes input from multiple healthcare team members. For example, if the health goal for the patient is to reduce the risk for infections during their stay, then the subsequent interventions would be the administration of medication (as prescribed by physician), followed by offering hygiene assistance and changing wound dressings (by the nurse).

what are nursing interventions

What Is the Role of Nursing Interventions?

While nurses may not use every intervention category during every shift, they still have crucial goals. 

First of all, nursing interventions help patients reach specific health goals. Administering medication, dressing wounds, and ensuring a patient stays hydrated are just some of the ways in which RNs are a vital part of treatment plans and speedy recovery.

Patient education is another approach through which nurses intervene for a patient’s wellbeing. The education process doesn’t stop at the client. Nurses also have to teach families and caregivers how to implement treatment plans after discharge or keep a patient’s condition in check even after they have left the hospital. 

Promoting safety is an additional crucial goal of nursing interventions. An RN’s actions can serve as preventative measures. Repositioning patients in bed to avoid pressure ulcers or lowering the bed to prevent the risk of falling are great examples of how nurses can promote patient safety. 

Nursing support isn’t always directed at physical actions nurses take for the wellbeing of their patients. Sometimes, RNs offer support by being there emotionally and comforting patients or their families in stressful situations. Recommending resources for therapy and sharing coping mechanisms are other ways nurses can provide support to their clients. 

Examples of Key Nursing Interventions

While there are over 550 possible nursing interventions, some are more common than others. Some of the interventions you may come across more often include pain control, position changes, fall prevention, ensuring adequate fluid or calorie intake, providing sleep pattern control, or engaging with the patient in mobility therapy. 

Additionally, we will take a closer look at specific nursing interventions associated with particular conditions or health risks. The list of potential interventions for each condition is by no means exhaustive because nursing interventions will be tailored to each patient’s needs. But this will help you better understand what nursing interventions entail.  

Nursing interventions for pain

Nursing interventions for pain will vary greatly depending on each patient and the type of pain they’re dealing with: acute or chronic. Some examples of RN interventions are:

  • Perform a detailed assessment of the pain. Pinpoint the location, characteristics, onset, duration, frequency, and severity of pain. 
  • Closely observe nonverbal indicators of pain. If the patient is moaning, guarding, crying, that may indicate that the treatment is inefficient. 
  • Provide a quiet environment for the patient. Limit visitor stays or access to the patient’s room
  • Provide optimal pain relief by administering pain relief medication prescribed by the doctor. 

Nursing interventions for hypertension

Some activities you can do in case your patient has hypertension are:

  • Ensure calm and restful surroundings. Minimize environmental activity and noise. 
  • Instruct the patient in relaxation techniques, guided imagery, distractions.
  • Administer medication as prescribed by the doctor.
  • Monitor response to medications to control blood pressure.

nursing interventions for hypertension

Nursing interventions for depression

Some nursing interventions you may consider when dealing with patients suffering from depression include: 

  • Encouraging the patient to express their feelings, be it anger, sadness, or guilt, and trying to develop alternative ways to handle these emotions.
  • Educate the patient about crisis counseling. Introduce the patient to self-help groups.
  • Ensure the patient takes medication on time and as prescribed. 

Nursing interventions for diabetes

These are some of the interventions that should be implemented for patients suffering from diabetes:

  • Educate the patient about how to monitor glucose levels at home.
  • Encourage your patient to read the labels of products they buy.
  • Teach patients how their antidiabetic medication works.
  • Check injection sites periodically.

Nursing interventions for COPD

Most patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) receive outpatient treatment. So, an essential part of the COPD nursing interventions focuses on teaching patients to comply with the therapy and understand the nature of this chronic disease.

  • Demonstrate effective coughing and deep-breathing techniques.
  • Encourage abdominal or pursed-lip breathing exercises.
  • Assist the patient in maintaining a comfortable position by elevating the head of the bed, having the patient lean on an overbed table, or sitting on the edge of the bed.

Ready to Embark on the Next Step of Your Nursing Career?

As a Registered Nurse, nursing interventions are an integral part of your practice. You will perform these activities throughout your entire RN career. Each intervention comes with a great deal of responsibility. Still, your nursing education combined with on-ground experience and the right set of skills will ensure you excel at this vital nursing process step. 

We’re here to help you succeed and to make sure that you, your patients, and the entire health environment all win. 

Enroll in Nightingale College’s BSN program or advance your education with our RN-to-BSN program. 

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