The truth is: Interventions can be a lifesaver for patients, and nurse intervention is considered the backbone of this medical profession. 

Young nurse taking care of older patient in a hospital

The term nursing intervention describes any type of action a nurse performs in order to improve the comfort and overall health of their patients. Those who are considering the advancement in the field of nursing should understand that interventions are a crucial practice they will be expected to master.

In this article, you will learn what nursing interventions are, what they entail, examples of nurse interventions, and how you can master this important aspect in proper medical care.

What are nursing interventions?

Nursing interventions can be described as one, or both, of the following – according to the Journal of Nursing Education:

  • Any task that a nurse does to, or for, a patient
  • Anything a nurse does that may lead, or is intended to lead directly to a patient outcome

Nurse interventions can either involve direct tasks, or indirect approach methods – depending on the patients needs and unique situation. The elderly population often benefit from, even require, a nurse to intervene on certain areas of their overall care. Seniors can develop a resistant attitude, or stubbornness, towards receiving care when they need it. This often happens when the care they require involves (what feels like) an invasion of their personal space. That said, no matter what area of expertise, or what specialty a nurse works in, the concept of nurse intervention is the same.

Nursing interventions fall into three main categories – each represent which medical professionals are responsible for performing and carrying out a patient intervention. Each of the three categories are listed below, with their description:

  • Independent: Nurses perform Independent interventions every day while they are working. When it comes to Independent interventions, a nurse can perform these tasks on his or her own, without assistance or input from others. An example of Independent intervention would be a nurse educating a patient on the importance of taking their medication as prescribed. 
  • Dependent: Dependent nursing interventions require a direct order from a physician, and cannot be performed by a nurse alone. For example, when a physician orders a new prescription medication for a patient. 
  • Interdependent: These interventions involve multiple members of a medical care team in order to perform tasks smoothly and properly. A care team will work together in caring for a patient during an intervention. An example of an Interdependent intervention could include a patient recovering from ankle surgery who is prescribed pain medication by a physician, administered by a nurse, and participates in routine physical therapy by a specialist.

Examples of general patient care areas include:

  • Sleep control, or sleep pattern control
  • Mobility support and therapy
  • Diet monitoring
  • Infection and dressings control
  • Alcohol or drug abuse control
  • Positioning physical therapy
  • Bed bound therapy and bedside care
  • Energy conservation methods
  • Postpartum support and aftercare

 

What are examples of nursing interventions?

Smiling senior patient sitting on wheelchair with nurse supporting her. Doctor looking at elderly patient on a wheelchair in the garden. Nurse holding hand of mature woman outside pension home.

So, what’s the difference between Nursing Intervention & Nursing Assessment?

Many people find themselves confused regarding the differences between nursing interventions and nursing assessments. Although both are incredibly essential aspects of a nurse’s work, the practices are different and distinct in many ways.

Nursing Assessments

A nursing assessment can be done by either a nurse, or a physician. Both medical professionals know how to perform an overall assessment on individuals, which provide an insight into the patient’s symptoms and the ailments they’re experiencing. In fact, according to AMN, the American Mobile Nurses Healthcare Education Service, four types of nursing assessments can be performed:

  • Abbreviated Assessments – these types of assessments are performed when lengthly evaluations are NOT required.
  • Comprehensive Health Assessments – medical assessments that are performed when a thorough evaluation of a patient’s health is required.
  • Assessments for Special Populations – these types of medical assessments are used for medically significant groups of people. Groups like these include the elderly and infants, for example.
  • Problem-Focused Assessments – these assessments were designed to provide a focus on specific ailments or for medical issues.

During Nursing Assessments, the following information about the patient may be gathered:

  • Patient health history
  • Primary complaints
  • Status of current health
  • Overall condition of one’s external body, and surfaces such as the skin
  • Review of any past or present, or potential future neurological conditions
  • A review of internal systems such as the cardiovascular, pulmonary, or musculoskeletal 
  • Patient nutrition status

Nursing interventions occur based on the results of nursing assessments. Although the ultimate goal of a patient assessment is to decide upon the right course of treatment, an intervention – in many cases – is the treatment. A nurse intervention may go beyond general review of the patient’s medical state and/or status. The following actions may be performed during a nursing intervention:

  • Stress control and crisis therapy
  • Terminal care, such as hospice 
  • Bereavement support groups
  • Free meals, such as Meals on Wheels
  • Basic communication between nurses and physicians
  • Coordinating nursing care, such as conducting routine checks and reviewing status reports

A thorough system is used to review and identify this type of work, as nursing interventions are a broad topic, describing nearly every interaction a nurse may have with their patients.

 

What is the Nursing Interventions Classification System?

Studio portrait of a nurse and a senior woman in wheelchair holding a red cup.

As previously stated, everything a nurse does for and with a patient may be considered a part of a nurse’s overall intervention. Therefore, the Nursing Interventions Classification (NIC) system is designed to categorize every possible intervention a nurse may perform. In addition, the system provides a platform for easy communication regarding interventions with other medical professionals, all while documenting the tests and evaluations they perform on a patient throughout an intervention. 

In order to keep this system up-to-date, it is constantly evolving through practice, evaluation and regular updating to meet the proper standards and requirements. This system ensures thorough care is provided to each and every patient. 

The 6th Edition of the Nursing Interventions Classification outlines a number of uses for this system, including:

  • Tracking and saving clinical documentation
  • A standardized communication system regarding patient care
  • Research on intervention effectiveness
  • Measure productivity and success
  • Competency evaluations
  • Thorough curriculum and design

 

Types of Nursing Interventions

The Nursing Interventions Classification (NIC) system involves several levels of classification, with the first level containing seven primary focus points, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Level one contains the following sectors, or types of interventions::

  • Community Nursing Interventions – focus primarily on overall public health initiatives, such as planning a free 5k race in your town, or implementing a free diabetes education program.
  • Family Nursing Interventions – involve intervention that impacts an entire family, such as a program that offers support for new mothers learning how to breastfeed. 
  • Behavioral Nursing Interventions – offer assistance, including actions, that help a patient change their own behavior. An example of a Behavioral nursing intervention would be offering support and coping methods for a patient who wishes to quit smoking.
  • Health System Nursing Interventions – These involve actions taken by nurses as part of a healthcare team, aimed at providing a safe medical facility for all patients. These may include procedures that reduce the risk of infection for patients during stays at a hospital.
  • Physiological Nursing Interventions: Both Basic and Complex – These are related to a patient’s physical health. Nursing interventions of this type come in two categories: Basic and Complex. An example of this form of interventions would be physiological procedures such as providing IV fluids to a patient who is dehydrated.
  • Safety Nursing Interventions – Actions that are aimed to help maintain a patient’s overall safety and well-being. An example of Safety Nursing Interventions would be educating a patient regarding their ability to call for assistance if they are not able to move around safely on their own.

These subjects are broad, as each sector contains 30 sub-section classes, followed by intervention lists. As of 2019, there are a total of 554 classified interventions. 

It is important to mention that, although the number of interventions can seem daunting, most nurses do not need to be familiar with all of them – due to the fact that a nurse won’t be using every type of intervention. A nurse will study and master the intervention types which apply to their area of expertise and medical practice. 

 

Nursing Interventions Performed Every Shift

An example of nursing interventions that are performed on every shift of an on-duty nurse, include the following:

  • Actively Listening to Patients – This is a task you complete with every patient you come in contact with as a nurse. Although active listening is generally covered in mental and behavioral health, it is essential to do so with patients in every stage of health in order to support their overall well-being.
  • Preventing Falls – Particularly within the care of elderly patients, nurses understand that there is a risk of falling and potentially injuring oneself among their patients. By educating them on using their bed alarms and ensuring non-skid socks are being used when needed.
  • Pain Control – As a nurse, you actively ensure your patients are comfortable and not in constant pain. Although not every patient will be prescribed pain medication, those that are prescribed must be monitored at all times. 
  • Cluster Care – This is a vital part of every nurses shift, ensuring that others on staff that day are made aware of each patient’s needs and that those needs are met.
  • Promoting Position Changes – Nurses must promote position changes in their patients in order to avoid bedsores. This is especially true among elderly patients. By ensuring movement is made, nurses can help avoid painful sores and bruising in their patients.
  • Ensure Adequate Oral Intake – It’s common for patients who are sick in the hospital to be dehydrated, often feeling too ill to orally drink fluids. That said, the patients who are able to orally ingest fluids must do so on a regular basis – which nurses can promote to avoid extreme dehydration.

 

Conclusion

As a practicing nurse, you will see just how often your regular day-to-day duties involve nursing interventions in one way or another. While you may not be using the exact terminology provided in your NIC booklet, the majority of nurses will be practiced in providing care to patients who are in pain, prevent falling among patients, prevent bed sores and ulcers from developing, and encouraging your patients to do as much as they can to protect themselves and stay healthy.