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A group of people with an intellectual disability

Relationship-based care

A key part of embracing reasonable adjustment is to ensure that the patient is the focus of health care delivery. Developing a relationship with the patient and delivering care through a relationship-based model improves the experience of healthcare for your patients.

This approach brings healthcare professionals to the fundamental principle of caring: to connect with another human being.

The building blocks to relationship-based care

Relationship-based care is a model to promote quality, safety and an excellent patient experience. Many healthcare professionals report providing much better care when they take the time to really get to know their patient and family. By focusing on relationships, the carer approaches care from a holistic-perspective rather than a disease-focused one.

A sphere describing the elements of relationship based care. Leadership, outcomes, resources, care delivery, practice, and teamwork.

We’re now going to look at the key components of relationship-based care.

Relationship with self

First, gaining an understanding of self is key to relationship-based care. In caring for oneself, you are in a better position to care compassionately for patients. If you are struggling with inner conflict, you may not be in a position to deliver care effectively. Self knowing means you have the insight to articulate your own needs and, in doing so, can manage stress and maintain balance from the demands of your job. Taking your break on time and allowing yourself to rejuvenate, for example, ensures your physical and emotional health and wellbeing are maintained.

Relationship with colleagues

Healthcare professionals form relationships with colleagues at many levels; however, to build a trusting and cohesive team, understanding, respect and commitment are needed. By cultivating relationship-based care between colleagues, all workers should understand the concepts, and remain invested and committed. Investing in education and igniting a spirit of caring is key to this. By providing opportunities to share experiences, for example, supportive relationships between colleagues can be built.

Relationship with patients and families

Refocusing on the patient reduces the likelihood of a task-orientated approach to care. To make interactions with patients more meaningful, be mindful that you are fully present for the person and their family. This will make the interaction with them more significant and with purpose.

How do we create a relationship-based model of care?

Think about these strategies for creating a relationship-based care model.

By ensuring the environment is a therapeutic caring environment:

A relationship-based care model incorporates a caring environment. The therapeutic environment plays a vital role in meeting the physical needs of the person to promote comfort and healing. The physical environment in which the person receives care brings an immediate context to their experience and can impact on how they connect, therefore, an environment that promotes comfort is essential.

Focusing on what resources are available, and not those resources that are lacking, prioritises what matters most to the patient and their family.

Through leadership and teamwork:

Each healthcare professional has a leadership role to play in providing compassionate relationship-based care.

By demonstrating compassionate caring leadership, other carers will identify with this example, and, in turn, support the emergence of caring compassionate leaders throughout the healthcare service.

This collective demonstration of compassionate leadership promotes the spirit of teamwork, with each healthcare professional taking accountability for their own actions. This encourages leaders to emerge at all levels and emulates the vision of relationship-based care for the service provider.

Through commitment to excellent communication:

Promoting a healthy environment that is respectful and considerate to all with the focus on the needs of the patient and their family promotes excellence in practice. This element of relationship-based care model highlights how excellent communication promotes a healthy environment and ensures patient advocacy and family involvement.

Inspire in a meaningful way:

Empowering healthcare professionals to be autonomous inspires critical thinking, prioritises care based on what matters most to the patient and their family, and stimulates positive feedback. Collating this feedback in structured outcome measurements ensures important data on the impact of both the relationships and the care, is captured. This patient satisfaction and positive clinical outcome data can then be used to inspire and motivate team members.

Education and awareness:

Developing ways to cope with the stress of the job promotes wellness among carers. Providing education and coping strategies underpins autonomy and accountability, and supports the carer in addressing challenges sooner.

In summary

Relationship-based care, when operating within an organisation, ensures the healthcare professionals are focused on the patient and cognisant of their behaviours in the care chain. Overall, it initiates structures and processes that are designed to support all team members in building relationships, ultimately ensuring they have the ability to provide high quality compassionate care.

  • The patient is the focus of care.
  • Care is accommodated through compassionate caring relationships with the patient and family, colleagues with whom you work and the self.
  • Promote autonomy and leadership and ensure all healthcare professional know the vision of the organisation, that of person-centred care.
  • Promote respect and dignity for all persons.
  • Promote a healthy environment through open communication.

To ensure the environment and approach is suitable for all patients, especially those with an intellectual disability, embracing reasonable adjustment to complement the relationship-based care approach will promote equality and equity in the delivery of your healthcare service. It will also ensure health disparities are addressed in an individualised and person-centred manner.

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This article is from the free online course:

Improving Health Assessments for People with an Intellectual Disability

Trinity College Dublin

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