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Family-centered care improves patient outcomes and retention

Family-centered care is the practice of considering and working with patients and their families to provide a high level of care in the most compassionate manner possible.

Nurses who practice family-centered care work carefully to ensure that families are involved with the care and treatment of their loved ones as much as possible.

The main advantages of family-centered care

Family-centered care is popular for those who are looking for a medical provider that can offer appointments and primary care for their entire family regardless of age.

Here are a few of the advantages family-centered care offers patients, nurses, and doctors.

  • Better patient outcomes

When patients have their families involved in their care and treatment, they are more comfortable and well-supported on an emotional level. Family involvement can be reassuring for the patient because it means they do not have to face medical decisions independently.

Patients with good family support heal and recover faster and are more likely to stick to treatment plans because they have others supporting them and encouraging them along their journey.

  • Fewer misunderstandings

With family-centered care, there is less risk of misunderstandings between patients, families, and their medical teams. Treating some conditions may require long-term treatment and care. Patients may need clarification on some aspect of treatment or something a doctor or nurse says to them. This can lead to misinformation reaching family members. Medical care tends to be stressful enough without misunderstandings.

Consider discharge and aftercare instructions. When family members are involved, it is far more likely that care instructions will be diligently followed. Still, it is important that those family members involved with the patient’s care have an opportunity to receive the instructions and some method of contacting a nurse or other medical care provider with any questions or concerns.

Having family involved also eliminates the risk that patients will hide aspects of their treatment and care that are important for caregivers to know about. Some patients with chronic or terminal conditions will choose to do this because they do not want family members to worry about or fret over their health. This can harm the patient and lead to a more negative outcome in a shorter period.

  • Less chance of malpractice lawsuits

Medical providers pay a high premium for malpractice insurance because malpractice lawsuits are so common. Through better communication and involving the patient’s family in the healthcare process, providers can reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings or mistakes that could result in a malpractice lawsuit. Regardless of whether a patient and their family are successful in their attempt to win a malpractice case, it is a lengthy and costly process that can cast a shadow on the reputation of a provider and the facility they work at.

  • Family-centered psychiatric care improves mental health and substance abuse recovery efforts

Treating mental health issues successfully is challenging, especially when the patient is also experiencing substance addiction. It is critical that people with mental health and/or substance abuse issues have a good support network.

When involved, a patient’s family can help medical providers create realistic treatment plans and goals that have a greater chance of success. Treatment plans that consider all aspects of a patient’s life and incorporate what support and resources are available to them will result in faster results and a patient who is more comfortable with the care they are receiving.

Involving the family helps because they can be aware of what is realistic for the patient rather than making possibly harmful assumptions. Family can sometimes have a hard time understanding or accepting the true state of a loved one’s mental health or the severity of their addiction. They may try to set goals too high, leading to a sense of failure or resentment.

Patients experiencing addiction may be able to kick their habits with outpatient care rather than expensive and hard-to-facilitate inpatient care if they have support and understanding from family members.

  • Patients at family-centered healthcare providers are more likely to return for care

Patients often have a lot of choices when it comes to what providers they choose to meet all their healthcare needs. Improved patient retention rates are something all facilities should strive for. When patients choose a provider and stick with them, it is better for everyone. The patient experiences a higher level of care because the medical provider is familiar with their needs and personal preferences. Treatment notes and medical records are right there for easy access by the provider rather than a provider having to dig and interact with other practices to access information.

Better patient retention can reduce healthcare costs as well. Transferring records and conducting initial exams and screenings takes time and resources.

  • Family-centered care encourages preventative care visits

Despite people having better access to affordable or free healthcare, a lot of people choose to skip important preventative healthcare visits and screenings. The COVID-19 pandemic led to even more of this behavior because practically everyone was avoiding any visits that were not 100% necessary. The truth is that preventative medicine is extremely important to the health and well-being of individuals and their families.

With family-centered care, patients have their families to help encourage them to attend routine health visits and screenings. Having close family members involved with a patient’s healthcare can prevent them from skipping out on preventative visits.

Healthcare providers need to be sure to clarify with patients and families what preventative medicine is covered by their healthcare plan. In many cases, all preventative visits are included. There may be a slight co-pay in some cases, but this is usually a very small amount. The reason so many preventative visits are covered is that health insurance companies have discovered that it reduces healthcare costs. Many individuals who are insured utilize preventative medicine, and their conditions are diagnosed and treated before they increase in severity.

  • Patients experience better mental health and overall well-being with family-centered care

Patients that keep a more positive outlook have better outcomes. It can be difficult for patients to maintain hope and morale when facing health issues, particularly those impacting their way of life and day-to-day activities. Patients with good support from friends and family heal faster and tend to do more to take charge of their health. When patients feel empowered and are given some options for things they can do to help themselves respond to treatments, they heal and recover faster.

Positive mental health also decreases the risk of patients turning to substance abuse or other unhealthy habits as a coping mechanism.

  • Family-centered care is best for facilities that specialize in pediatric medicine

Diagnosing and treating children must be done with a high level of patience and compassion. Involving family members and caregivers increases the comfort level of children and young adults and reduces resistance to treatments, testing, and more.

When family-centered care practices are used with children, parents are more likely to return to the practice as their children mature and grow.

The main principles of family-centered care

Nurses and other health care providers should know the core concepts behind family-centered care to base their practices around them.

  • Honest and detailed communication

Healthcare providers must make every effort to offer honest and detailed information to patients and their families. Of course, some information may need to remain confidential at the patient’s request if they are over 18, or healthcare providers may need to obtain permission to share medical information with specific family members.

Providers need to allow time for patients and their families to ask any questions relevant to their care and treatment.

Honesty is essential. Although many health concerns are very serious and not something anyone wants to hear, it is important that nurses and medical teams are completely honest about treatments, side effects, long-term outlooks, etc. It is not ethical to withhold information or give a more positive outlook to spare feelings.

  • Using referrals to create inclusive treatment plans and support networks

Collaboration and referrals are part of creating comprehensive treatment plans. Providers may suggest professional counselors for patients or for supporting family members that are providing care for the patient or dealing with emotional issues related to a diagnosis.

Medical specialists are often part of treatment plans for patients suffering from chronic conditions or those that need specialized care. While a family nurse practitioner may conduct a primary diagnosis, they may send a patient and their family to an ultrasound or imaging lab for further testing and diagnosis.

Having a family member or support person with a patient while they are undergoing specialized treatment can help keep them calm and in a more positive frame of mind.

  • Drawing on the strengths of individuals and their families

Medical teams practicing family-centered care take the time to get to know those who are heavily involved with the care and support of the patient. By doing this, healthcare workers can assess the talents and strengths of each individual and utilize them as part of the patient’s treatment. For example, if a patient has a close relative who is an experienced counselor, they may be helpful if they just need someone to talk to when they feel low or stressed.

A family member who works from home and can assist with daily activities while a patient recovers from surgery or treatment is a strength to draw on.

Even something as simple as family spending time with a patient doing an enjoyable activity can make a huge difference in morale and outcome.

  • Respect for the patient and family is crucial to providing the best care

Patients and their families deserve to be treated with respect and dignity at all times. Medical providers must allow patients to decide what loved ones they want to be involved with their care and treatment and always respect those wishes. Patients that are minors have less say over who is involved with their care, but it is a good idea for medical providers to work with parents to establish with whom their child is comfortable being involved.

Medical providers are increasingly serving more diverse patients. This means time must be taken to learn about different religious or cultural customs that impact patient healthcare choices and needs. These cultural differences must be treated with respect, even if they sometimes result in patients refusing treatments that their medical providers may feel are in their best interests.

  • Spiritual care considerations

Family-centered care must consider a patient’s faith and spiritual beliefs. Faith and spiritualism are a source of strength and inspiration for many people. It is essential for medical staff to acknowledge this regardless of their own beliefs.

It may be very important for a patient to pray or discuss their faith at times with their medical provider or with their family when they are getting treatments or even before a diagnosis.

Referring patients to support groups with a spiritual emphasis may be something that a family-based medical provider should consider in order to help their patients maintain strong morale and positive thinking.

  • Family-centered medical practices are in high demand

With more people having access to regular medical care, there is a higher demand for primary care doctors, particularly those that have smaller practices with an emphasis on providing care for families with members of all ages.

Some nurses are choosing to advance their careers by gaining an advanced degree that allows them to practice as family nurse practitioners. Those that are already working as a licensed RN can earn their FNP degree online while continuing to work. Carson-Newman University offers an online MSN-FNP degree at a low tuition cost. The degree can be completed in as little as 32 months. 600 clinical rotation hours and one three-day residency are required in addition to the online courses.

So, what does a family nurse practitioner do?

Family nurse practitioners work in all areas of healthcare. Here are a few of the roles they fill on a daily basis.

  • Patient diagnosis

An FNP is trained to diagnose a wide variety of health conditions from simple colds and allergies to more severe or chronic conditions. In some cases, a family nurse practitioner may conduct a primary diagnosis but refer a patient to a specialist for more conclusive testing and diagnosis.

  • Treatment plans

Family nurse practitioners create reasonable treatment plans and guidelines for patients. Sometimes an FNP will consult with multiple other healthcare professionals to collaborate on treatment plans and follow-up care for the patient.

  • Preventative care visits

The importance of preventative care cannot be stressed enough. A family nurse practitioner conducts routine checkups and health screenings. This may include a complete physical exam along with other tests and screenings depending on the age of the patient and the presence of any chronic health issues or complaints.

  • Ordering tests

An FNP often puts in orders for testing. While blood or urine samples may be taken at the practice of the FNP, these samples are then sent to labs and tests run at the discretion of the FNP. Results may be used to make a more concrete diagnosis and determine the most useful treatments for the patient.

  • Referrals for substance abuse counseling and treatment

Due to the vast increase in substance abuse, family nurse practitioners are increasingly involved in helping patients with substance abuse problems find treatment options and deal with any health issues they are currently experiencing due to addiction. This may mean prescribing medications that can help and referring patients to programs and resources that can help them kick unhealthy habits.

An FNP may work with social workers to help addicts find resources to help them through the recovery process.

Future prospects for family nurse practitioners

  • Family nurse practitioners experience excellent job placement and salaries

Even if you have to seek out another medical facility to work at after graduating with an FNP degree, most graduates find a great position within months of graduating. The average salary for an FNP in the United States is around $121,000.

  • Over the next decade, the demand for nurses with advanced degrees is set to grow

A large population of aging adults has led to an increased demand for all types of healthcare workers. As more medical workers reach retirement age, there is strong demand for experienced nurses to earn advanced degrees and skills to take their place as leaders in the medical field.


Family-centered medical care offers a lot of advantages to patients and medical providers. By involving a patient’s family members in their care and treatment, providers can offer a higher level of care while increasing their patient retention rate.

Healthcare leaders and administrators would benefit from assessing how their facility implements family-centered medical care and make improvements whenever possible.

If you are currently an RN, consider where you want to take your career and see whether gaining an advanced degree will help you gain more opportunities and the option of working in a more family-oriented medical facility. The high demand for highly skilled medical workers in the future means fantastic job security and the ability to work at many different locations.

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