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The Use of Applied Psychology in Nursing

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How I Will Use Applied Psychology in My Career Field

The loud whir of the machinery lost its intensity with the sound of breaking bones. In an instant the young man’s right arm and hand were permanently mangled; the elbow was dislocated and the hand and wrist suffered multiple fractures. The injury would be a life altering event for the high school senior, ending prospects for promising careers in his three main areas of interest at the time: professional basketball, the United States Coast Guard, and animation drawing. The physical recovery process took years and twenty-five years later he still suffers with pain and limitations caused by the injury. The psychological recovery has also taken nearly as long, though the process and results are more difficult to define. The effect of having all his potential hopes and dreams dashed in an instant is nearly impossible to describe and I will not attempt to do so here. I know the effects of this type of devastating injury because I was that young man. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many ways that event impacted my life but let’s suffice it to say it put me on a new path. That path has eventually led me to pursue a career in the health care industry as a nurse.

When examining the use of applied psychology within the nursing profession it quickly becomes obvious that psychological theory and practice are thoroughly integrated into the very essence of nursing. Gerow defines psychology as the study of human behavior, affect, and cognition. This covers a broad range of subjects including: sensation, perception, learning, memory, life development, motivation, emotion, personality, response to stress, psychological disorders, social roles, and interpersonal communication. (Gerow, 3) Psychology addresses everything there is to being human, less the biology which is still an aspect deeply imbedded in the human condition. Nursing can be defined as “a service profession that effects changes in the client’s biopsychosocial environment to promote health, learning, and growth.”(Sundeen, 2) Using these definitions nursing could be designated as a psychological profession since it deals with all the aspects of being human and in fact there is a specialty within the nursing profession entitled psychiatric-mental health nurse.

Nurses fill many roles within the healthcare community, including direct care, education, and management, and most find themselves in all the various roles at one time or another through the course of a work day. At this point I am still uncertain as to the exact job I will fill as a nurse, and knowing my nature that is likely to change every few years. Regardless of the specific job much in the nursing process remains the same. The role of a nurse is supportive and therapeutic, interacting with other human beings to explore their needs, feelings, and goals usually in the face of illness or injury but also to promote good health throughout their life.

Nurses potentially deal with every aspect of life from birth to death, sometimes within the same day. Medical conditions, psychological conditions, and the personal effects of people’s social roles are encountered on a daily basis. In this process, an understanding of human psychological development is vitally necessary.

Nurses are required to make diagnoses concerning the nursing needs of a client. Within this context the nurse must know not only the client but himself as well and also what is considered to be the “normal” human condition. A nursing diagnosis is the independent judgment of a nurse that identifies the nursing needs of the client. These nursing needs concern the aspects of the client’s health that may need to be promoted or with which the client needs help in his biopsychosocial adaptation to stress. The nurse helps the client adapt as an individual to the stress he is experiencing. “The goal of nursing care is to maximize the person’s positive interactions with his environment, level of wellness, and degree of self-actualization.” (Sundeen, 2)

As a nurse one is involved with people. The person is believed to be an integrated whole with biologic, psychosocial, sociocultural, philosophic, and intellectual elements. A nurse does not separate and treat these elements in isolation but treats the whole person. (Sundeen, 12) From a purely medical perspective nurses rely on their own sensations and perceptions to judge the medical conditions of their clients. This judgment includes the evaluation of the client’s sensations and perceptions as well. An understanding of the basic processes of sensation and perception, memory and learning, and motivation and emotional responses in people are of the utmost necessity in making accurate diagnoses and assisting clients in developing good health or managing disease.


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