How Is a Nursing Career Related to Psychology?

A patient in the hospital
A patient in the hospital (Image: "Sue and Bill" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: jamesfischer (Jim Fischer) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Although nursing and psychology are two separate fields, they are still linked. In the nursing field, the focus is on helping individuals with their health and recovery. Psychology on the other hand is the study of mental processes and behavior. Nursing and psychology are linked because to help people adequately recover from health problems, a nurse must often understand the behavior and emotional state of a patient. This is vital for a nurse who desires to help patients recover from diseases or disabilities quickly.


Psychologists and nurses both have the common goal of understanding the emotional and biological needs of their patients. Although nurses sometimes provide very basic care, they have the job of developing an individual’s ability to become more independent. This is especially true in cases where a patient is recovering from some type of accident.


One way that psychology enhances nursing is by helping a person change behaviors, such as their mental thought patterns. An optimistic nurse who brings comfort to patients has the ability to encourage positive thinking. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, says that the brain’s ability to affect the body has been scientifically proven. (See Reference 1) A positive attitude can boost the immune system and contribute to physical health and recovery.


When the nursing field incorporates psychology it begins to resemble a field called biopsychology. Biopsychology attempts to understand behavior through biological theories. Nursing already has a biological base and when a nurse attempts to understand patients beyond a biological level, biopsychology begins to emerge. The expansion of fields like biopsychology continues to be a key part in nursing and nurse training.

Patient Relationships

In the book "Psychology for the Profession of Nursing," the author acknowledges that the nurse ultimately develops a close personal relationship with patients. In order to develop a healthy relationship, it’s vital that a nurse understand human emotional reactions, and psychology is the key to understand this fully. A nurse must recognize when a patient is angry, depressed, confused or afraid, and take the necessary steps to deal with these emotions so as not to aggravate a patient’s health condition.


Psychology can enhance the nursing profession when it’s properly applied. There are psychological theories and research that can prove to be useful to individuals in the nursing profession. Although nursing is largely based in biology, there are psychological and social elements to nursing. When nurses understand and embrace this idea, they become better at their professions.

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