The Effects of a Nurse’s Attitude

For centuries, there have been nurses in some capacity who have the job of taking care of ill individuals. Modern nursing is thought to have begun following the work of Florence Nightingale, also known as “The Lady with the Lamp”. (Who’s Who In British History) Today there is a wide range of nursing degrees and specialties developed to better serve patients. For years, research has confirmed that one’s approach has a vital effect on individual health; a sympathetic nursing outlook can cultivate healthy and possibly advance the healing process (for patients), as recent research suggests.

            A nurse is defined as, “A person formally educated in the care of the sick or affirms” (Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary). Nurses are responsible for caring for patients, working every day with high tech equipment, and are directly involved in decisions regarding a patient’s care. A nurse can be referred to as a patient advocate (The Center for Nursing Advocacy). Currently, nursing is the largest healthcare profession.  At this time, there are an estimated 2.9 million registered nurses in the United States. According to speculation, by the year 2010 the United States will be short 275,000 nurses. This nationwide shortage is anticipated to reach 800,000 nurses by the year 2020.(The Center of Nursing Advocacy). There is a variety of nursing degrees that can be obtained such as Licensed Practitioning Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN), Associates Degree (ADN), Bachelor in Science (BSN), and Accelerated (BSN and MSN). Nurses are typically employed in hospitals, health systems, rehabilitation hospitals, home health, long-term care facilities, assisted living communities, and nursing homes (Future In Nursing).

It has often been said that the way one thinks affects his or her overall health and reality. Images in the mind are real occurrences to the body. Oftentimes, one feels better about himself when he feels he has a sense of control over what is occurring to him and his surroundings (Naparstek 21-26). The mind has powerful control over the body. Imagery is any perception that comes through any of the senses. One’s body does not differentiate between sensory images in the brain and what is veracity (Naparstek 17-18). If one believes something long enough, he will become certain of it regardless of the validity. The subconscious mind does not make a distinction between the real and self-conjured. Individuals tend to behave a certain way depending upon how they view themselves and others (Park 91). The brain fires electron impulses in the same frequency and pattern when doing something physically and the same thing mentally (Park 74). A physical ailment may in fact only be in the mind of the individual.

The Law of Correspondence states, “Your life is a reflection of your inner life. There’s a direct correspondence between the way you think and feel on the inside and the way you act and experience on the outside. Your relationship, health, wealth, and position are mirror images of your inner world” (Park 74). One’s focus should not solely be on what he cannot do or his physical ailments, but what he is able to do and accomplish. It is always important to focus on the positive and not dwell on negative aspects. The Law of Affirmation states that fully ninety-five percent of thinking and feeling is determined by the way one talks to himself. One’s inner dialogue is accepted as

commands by his subconscious mind. One must continuously talk to himself in a positive manner (Park 117).

A study was conducted in a cancer clinic in Sydney, Australia in 2003. The objective of this study was to determine how patients and nurses view ‘being positive’ and identify the different factors that influence this state of being (O’Baugh et al. 262). It was already both assumed and stated that the overall attitude of the health care providers affects a patient’s general attitude and desire or willpower. Although the eleven cancer patients (ranging from ages thirty eight to seventy one) and eight nurses (of varying degrees from ages of twenty to fifty nine years of age) surveyed had different ideas of what “being positive” actually means, all concurred that having a positive attitude affects health, but one does not necessarily need to be positive about everything all the time (O’Baugh et al. 266). Sometimes, being continually positive is both damaging and counterproductive (O’Baugh et al. 263). One patient viewed the idea of having a continuously positive attitude as unrealistic. Rather, one should seek to have an overall positive attitude about his situation and getting better. Inevitably, one is likely to have some moments or days of negativity. But overall, it was concluded that being positive is essential when dealing with cancer (O’Baugh et al. 262-270).        

  One patient from the study made an interesting analogy between a nurse’s attitude and the environment with going shopping. The individual stated, “If you go into a shop to buy something and someone is there and they have a sad look on their face and

you don’t get a word (out of them) so they are so negative in their attitude, it has a terrible effect on you. You don’t go back to the shop” (O’Baugh et al. 267). From the study, it was concluded that being positive is an essential when dealing with cancer (O’Baugh et al. 262-270).

According to the patients, factors that determined attitudes are: support of others, relationship with doctor and/or nurse, and environment (O’Baugh et al. 263). At least one individual stated that his religion and relationship with God affects his attitude in trying times (O’Baugh et al. 266). It has also been proven that individuals often seek the guidance of their nurse regarding spiritual issues (Lundmark). On page 91 of Get Out of Your Way, composed by Layton Park it reads, “Whatever you dwell upon grows and expands in your life. Whatever you concentrate and think about repeatedly increases in your world. Therefore, you must focus your thinking on the things you really want in your life”(Law of Concentration).

A study was administered to 189 subjects in two Japanese psychiatric hospitals in 2005. In this study the expressed emotion (EE) of nurses was evaluated. EE is an index that represents domestic relationships, and is evaluated by gauging the substance of emotion expressed toward the patient by the family. All over the world EE has been studied and it is believed that there is a connection between the direction of an illness and EE. Nurses often spend the most time with a patient, and it is speculated that the nurse’s emotional outlook towards the patient will in some way have an effect on the patient’s sickness (Katsuki 265). In addition to several other questionnaires, the Pine’s Burnout Scale was also administered. This scale measures emotional, mental, and physical fatigue. It was concluded that a nurse being burnt out effects the nurse’s emotional attitude towards the patient, and this in turn effects the patient negatively (Katsuki 268).

Nurses typically work long shifts that require the utmost attention and dedication. This is often a tiresome and draining profession.  It takes a special individual with a calling to be a nurse. But the satisfaction of nursing is the knowledge that one has made a positive difference in another individual’s life (Heron XV). “When a person becomes a nurse, they sign on for life. It doesn’t seem to matter for how long or in what branch of nursing one works; there is a certain quality– a spirit, a depth of soul– which is unique to a nurse” (Heron XV). If not simply for occupational reasons, there are also Biblical obligations to care for others. Luke 10:27 B states, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Loving others and giving them the best care possible requires understanding, humility, and the willpower to not give up.

In the mentioned 2003 study in Sydney, it was suggested that others rather than additional factors, such as illness, determine a patient’s positive attitude. The patients believed that the attitudes of others around them affected his or her positive attitude and recovery status (O’Baugh et al. 267).

When dealing with the sick, it is always essential to use positive reinforcement. After all, in some circumstances, one is only as sick as he feels. And the encouragement and positive stance of others (namely the health care provider) can do nothing but lift the spirits of the ill and make him feel better than he is in actuality. Speaking kindly, using positive words, affirming, and building up, praising, complimenting, and empowering are excellent ways to motivate an ill person (Knuston 15). It is important to not treat a person as a “case, project, or burden” (Knuston 15). It is vital for health care providers to value a person by his worth to God and not his abilities. (Galatians 3:26) Nurses and all health care personnel are esteemed in society. Trust and belief are influential forces in one’s mind and one is inclined to trust people he gives authority (Park 91).

Mikael Lundmark conducted a survey of 141 nurses in a Swedish oncology unit in hopes of finding out how much spirituality affects a patient as well as a nurse’s reaction to the patient’s needs in this area. The definition of spiritual care as defined in the study is, “Spiritual care means making possible/facilitating for the patient, with the help of suitable nursing interventions, to express and discuss existential questions and to praise his/her spirituality (which may be done through the practicing of a specific religion

but also through activities which do not need to be of religious nature)” (Lundmark 868). It was concluded that eighty seven percent of nurses believe that they (nurses) should regard the patient’s spiritual needs, although only forty- nine percent believe this is actually carried out within their own ward (Lundmark 864).

It has also been thought that, in order to better deal with patients, a nurse should increase his or her own spiritual awareness and receptiveness (Lundmark 872).  In a previous study (Boutell and Bozett) he noted, that nurses working with the terminally affirmed that they are more likely to take note of the patient’s spiritual needs, compared to the needs of patient’s that are not incurably ill (Lundmark 866). Nurses with a belief in God were found to be more equipped and acquiescent to the spiritual needs of patients compared to nonreligious nursing professionals (Lundmark 870).

A caregiver’s words can be a form of dangerous interference, namely if his words cause the patient to think negatively and possibly refuse vital treatments.  Patricia A. Farrell, psychologist and author of How to Be Your Own Therapist, states that even when patients are under anesthesia they are often cognizant, hearing what caregivers are saying. Unfortunately, in the operating room is when physicians say things that could be

disheartening and even frightening to the patient. One may react negatively to news about one’s health since the immune system is weak due to mood. This poor attitude can

potentially affect how much pain the patient undergoes and the overall outcome of a procedure (Minding Your Medical Manners 5).

A nurse’s care and attention level can also affect a patient physically. In 2006 a study was conducted in Sweden surveying 252 registered nurses and nurse’s aides. Fifty-three percent were positive about caring for a patient’s nutritional health. It is believed that in regards to malnutrition (focus area of the study) a nurse’s positive attitude has the potential to affect the patient’s health in an encouraging manner (Backrach- Lindstrom 2007). Betty G., an ICU staff nurse, was quoted on page 38 in the book Tending Lives Nurses In the Medical Front by saying, “There are so many love stories in what nurses do. It’s inspiring to see people reaching out to other people. I don’t expect to see it much anymore but when it happens it’s a gift.”

The overall attitude of a caregiver affects the patient physically, spiritually, and emotionally. If the nurse is positive, the patient is more likely to have a positive attitude himself and potentially improve at a faster rate.  On the other end of the spectrum, a negative attitude may affect the patient’s attitude and recovery in a negative and damaging manner. Experience and time spent with a patient may also play a role in the caregiver’s openness with a patient. It is vital that a nurse behave positively around patients in order to aid in attitude and recovery. Nursing strategies and outlooks have and will continue to affect a patient’s well being. Therefore, it is a wise idea for a nurse to be conscientious in his or her outlook and behavior at the workplace.


Works Cited

Bachrach-Lindstrom, Margareta, Sara Jensen, Rickard Lundin, and Lennart Christensson. “Nutrition and Older People.” Journal of Clinical Nursing (2006): 2007-014. Ebsco Host. 28 Nov. 2008 <>.

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Gang, Sha Zhi. Soul Mind Body. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2006. 3-3

Heron, Echo. Tending Lives Nurses on the Medical Front. NY: The Ballantine Group, 1998. XV+.

Katsuki, Fujika, Masahiro Goto, and Toshiyuki Someya. “A study of emotional attitudeof psychiatric nurses:Reliability and validity of the Nurse Attitude Scale.” International Journal of Mental Health Nursing (2005): 265-70. 28 Dec. 2008 <>.

Knuston D, Lois. Compassionate Caregiving Practical Health and Spiritual Encouragement. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2007. 13+.

Lundmark, Mikael. “Attitudes to spiritual care among nursing staff in a Swedish oncology clinic.” Journal of Clinical Nursing 15th ser. (2006): 863-74. 2006. Ebsco Host. 28 Nov. 2008


“Minding Your Medical Manners?” Marketing Health Services 2002: 5-6. Business Source Premier. Ebsco Host. 27 Nov. 2008 <http://


Naparstek, Belleruth. Staying Well With Guided Imagery. New York, NY: Warner Books, 1994. 17+.

“Nurse.” Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. NY: Random House, 2006.

O’Baugh, Jenny, Leslie M. Wilkes, Suzanne Luke, and Ajesh George. “ISSUES AND IN NOVATIONS IN NURSING PRACTICE ‘Being positive’:perceptions of patients

with cancer and their nurses.” Journal of Advanced Nursing (2003): 262-270. 16 July 2003. Ebsco Host. 27 Nov. 2008


Park, Layton. Get Out of Your Way. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2007. 74+.

Who’s Who In British History. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998.






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