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What’s the difference between “care” and “treatment” in nursing?


iStockphoto | ThinkStock

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

Over on The Nerdy Nurse, guest blogger Jenna recently posted an interesting article about the difference between “care” and “treatment” in the world of nursing. While we know that to the layperson, nursing is a job that requires the care of a patient, what is nursing to nurses themselves? And how does caring for a patient go beyond just treating the patient?

Check out what she has to say:

The word “care” is a bit complicated. In a medical sense, it means to tend to needed procedures, carry out instructions from physicians, and do the clinical things that are required for an ill or injured person.

On top of all that scientific caring, there’s sociological caring as well. That means providing an equal level of commitment to the emotional situation, making sure that the patient and family members are coping with the complexities of their particular cases.

Many times, this isn’t all that demanding. A patient with a simple forehead laceration gets some adhesive sutures and a tetanus shot, then a quick trip out the door. Even the most tender-hearted nurse won’t wake at 3am (or 3pm) worried about that patient’s day. This is a minor injury and most nurses are well aware that most patient’s will recover without further complications.

It’s the tough ones that require more of the abstract care. It’s those fighting for their lives against cancer or other debilitating diseases. It’s children in scary situations, accompanied by worried parents who aren’t sure where to turn.

When it’s both of those, a child with cancer, it leads to increased stress levels would could be a recipe for hypertension. For you.

Here sit Mom and Dad, frightened beyond measure about what will happen to a child who, just days ago, was playing care free and having fun. Suddenly there’s a chronic headache or a lump on the wrist, and the child’s life is flashing before the parents’ eyes. And nurses are on the front lines doing their very best to deliver care and compassion to the patient and their family. Nurses are at the bedside at a time of worry and frustration trying their best to help.

Nurses and other medical professionals can take care of the medical side. There’s a scan at 7:30, and getting meds is just routine. Nurses can help make sense of all the procedures and ensure technical stuff gets done.

However, some nurses go beyond these technical tasks and deliver a level of care that takes the body, mind, and soul into consideration. It’s the stuff beyond the medicine that separates the caring nurses from the ones who are chugging through that checklist.

It’s impossible to fill all the hours or answer all the concerns that parents have. But when you have developed an ear and a heart for caring, you’ll find ways to help families get the upper hand on their child’s ailments as well as their own fears.

Do you believe in care beyond treatment? What does it mean to you? Let’s discuss in the comments below! And to read the rest of the article, head on over to The Nerdy Nurse.

The Nerdy Nurse
Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, also known as The Nerdy Nurse, is a Clinical Informatics Specialist practicing in Georgia. In her day job she gets to do what she loves every day: Combine technology and healthcare to improve patient outcomes. She can best be described as a patient, nurse and technology advocate, and has a passion for using technology to innovate, improve and simplify lives, especially in healthcare. Brittney blogs about nursing issues, technology, healthcare, parenting and various lifestyle topics at

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