Are You a Task or Relationship Oriented Nurse?

Maya Angelo



After many years of not being a patient, I was one last year. I’d forgotten how it feels to be on the other side and be under the care of a nurse.

The nurse taking care of me had several other patients to focus on, probably five or six.  She kept running from room to room and did not talk much to any of us.

I put myself in her shoes and tried to understand how hard she was trying to accomplish everything. The problem was, she hardly spoke to me, and I felt she really was not interested in my pain. She was more task-oriented and not relationship-oriented.


Patient-centered care

When it comes to giving patient-centered care, making sure the right or relevant tests are ordered for the patient is important. Nurses do all this well -but from the patient’s perspective, how the nurse makes them feel is most important. Talking to the patient and involving them in your decisions and care is the key to patient-centered care.

This made me think about my practice, particularly when I am busy. Am I more task or relationship oriented at those times? How about you?

What patients want

Nurses tend to have lots of tasks to perform than they have time for.

You may find that you are running from one point to another like a chicken with your head cut off. Sometimes you wonder if nurses need roller skates to meet all the demands the employer expects.

When the nurse is too busy, they may not be able to focus on an individual patient and give the best care. You may think, “with all the tasks I have, how can I give patient-centered care?”

Nurse running



Maya Angelo said; “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Tasks are important, and we need to make sure the patients get care that is centered on their medical needs. However, taking time to talk, smile, and being empathetic is more important to them.


I’d like to know how you give patient-centered care when you are busy.


This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival. More posts on this topic can be found at Big Red Carpet Nursing. Find out how to participate.


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  1. I think Maya Angelo quote you referred to “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” mirrors the meaning behind patient centered care. As a busy hospital floor nurses, it’s so easy to become overwhelmed with all the tasks required, even more so when short-staffed. But, at the end of the day it all comes back to how the patient “feels” about their care. And, relationship building is more sustainable than task building. Great article!

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks Dr Rachel.
      -And yes, We need to focus on our patients feelings.

  2. Wow, that is a great question as I work in a very busy ED and find it hard sometimes to give the care I want to give my patients due to the business of the ED. I like to spend time with each person as an individual and not be what I call a “robot task nurse”, it can be done and only takes a few minutes to say, hi my name is Leslie, I am your nurse and as you can tell I am super busy tonight, your care here is important and I want you to tell me if there is anything at all that you need…anything at all. Just knowing your name is a huge thing, knowing you care is also huge, communication about the department or status of your floor or anything going on at the time that might affect delays is another huge stressor for patients and families. I too have been on the other side as the patient and family way to many times to count and I try to think, what would I want to see and hear from a nurse.
    Great thought provoking post! really enjoyed it! Leslie

    • Joyce says:

      Leslie, what a great way to simply and quickly put any patient at ease. We should all memorize that sentence,(Hi my name is Leslie, I am your nurse and as you can tell I am super busy tonight, your care here is important, and I want you to tell me if there is anything at all that you need…anything at all)and use it daily if we do direct patient care. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN says:

    Great example of patient-centered care. Thanks for the contribution!

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks Kathy for stopping by.

  4. I loved your post, Joyce. You are making a critical point about demonstrating genuine care for patients and the reality that nurses often are stretched too think to accomplish all the tasks we have and develop compassionate therapeutic relationships. These too are important for safe care! This is a problem that we must work to solve and writing about is a great step in that direction! I appreciate the quote from Maya Angelou too…a very wise woman.

    • Joyce says:

      The problem of having too many tasks is real Beth. -And a challenge to solve. Thank you for your kind words.

  5. This is so true. Joyce, you are illustrate how important it is to bridge the ‘art’ with the science of nursing. Sure, we can become quite skilled in our nursing tasks. Yet when these are done without any presence, the patient certainly can feel it. Thank you for this wonderful reminder! Great article.

    • Joyce says:

      Elizabeth, sometimes we forget -and yes, we have to be ‘always present.’

  6. I believe that because I am a nursing student, I have a greater opportunity to be relationship driven due to my lighter patient load and more time I have on my hands throughout the day. It is so important to me to continue to value this as I become a registered nurse. Thank you for distinguishing the differences between being relationship and task oriented. I believe that the best nurse are one’s who are able to established therapeutic relationships WHILE providing those necessary skills. We have incredible potential to create positive change for our patients.

    • Joyce says:

      Nicole you say it well.
      We have to established therapeutic relationships with our patients. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thanks for your great contribution to the Carnival, Joyce. I’m told one of the best ways to make a point effectively starts with 6 words : “Let me tell you a strory.” The Maya Angelou quote is terrific, too. My nursing career started out in dementia work: a specialized unit that treated only out of control elders too dangerous for their current residences. Tough crowd! It was far and away the most frequently and unpredictably violent patient population I’ve ever seen, and I”ve seen many.
    One thing I learned: despite no apparent memory for any new information, these folks clearly did remember who they trusted and liked, and who they didn’t, even though they had no clue why. That deep instinct, I later learned, is called emotional memory. It’s separate in the brain from other kinds of memory, and it rarely fails. Your quote speaks to all humans, but especially to these folks! If you made them happy, they did much better behaviorally, with you, long after they forgot why. If you made them frightened or angry or hurt their pride, your odds of getting attacked days later rose sharply. What goes around comes around! Once I learned how to interact more effectively, I experienced far less violence, except when I rescued others (often) still not in the know. Thanks – Greg

    • Joyce says:

      Greg. You had some interesting experiences with your patients. Thanks for mentioning ’emotional memory’ and sharing your experiences because pleasant emotions are usually remembered better than unpleasant ones. I appreciate nurses who work with dementia patients because not every nurse is wired to. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Yes! We should be reminded every day, every shift, what we are communicating to patients in our care. It’s not about us, it’s about them. Thank you for sharing.

    • Joyce says:

      Yes Beth.
      We need to be aware at all times.

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