What Is a Nursing Intervention? A Beginner’s Guide

close up of nurse holding a tablet 

The more you look into nursing careers, the more you realize that a day in the life of a nurse is rarely boring. You recently came across the term nursing intervention, which sounds like even more drama than the TV shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Intervention” combined!

Nurses can certainly experience their share of excitement during work, but nursing interventions aren’t quite as dramatic as they might sound. Unlike what you might be thinking, a nursing intervention isn’t just for patients struggling with addiction, and they definitely don’t always end in gut-wrenching emotional confrontations.

If it’s not a tension-filled scene in which a nurse confronts a patient, what is a nursing intervention? Join us as we learn more about how nursing interventions work in the real world, including everything aspiring nurses need to know about this facet of patient care.

What is a nursing intervention?

Medical dictionaries define nursing interventions simply as “any act by a nurse that implements the nursing care plan.” Far from the drama-filled situations you might have envisioned, nurses perform interventions on a daily basis. Many interventions are just part of the routine, such as turning patients to prevent bedsores, helping a patient control their pain level and assisting patients to prevent falls.

Nursing interventions are tracked using a standard classification system known as Nursing Interventions Classification (NIC). Nurses use this classification system for communicating about interventions with other medical professionals and documenting their actions.

Nurses operate alongside physicians and other specialists on a care team who all work together to determine the interventions a particular patient needs. Nursing interventions fall into three main categories that determine which medical professionals are responsible for carrying out a patient intervention:

  • Independent: A nurse can carry out these interventions on their own, without input or assistance from others. An example of an independent intervention includes educating a patient on the importance of their medication so they can administer it as prescribed.
  • Dependent: These nursing interventions require an order from a physician, such as ordering the prescription for a new medication.
  • Interdependent: Nurses work alongside multiple members of a care team to perform these interventions. An example of an interdependent intervention could include a patient recovering from knee surgery who is prescribed pain medication by a physician, administered medication by a nurse and given physical therapy exercises by a specialist.

Assessment vs. nursing intervention

Nursing interventions and assessments are two separate steps in a larger nursing process. Nurses follow this step-by-step procedure to provide the best care possible for their patients.

Assessment is the first step in the nursing process, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA). Nurses need to understand a patient’s medical history, the medications they may be taking and current health condition before they can provide proper care. Assessment is when nurses gather this information and use active listening skills to talk with patients and learn more about their concerns, mental health and any changes in their condition.

Nurses use the information they gathered during assessment to inform a diagnosis and create an outcome plan for their patient. Once all this planning has been completed, interventions can take place. These are the actions nurses take to implement a patient’s care plan and help them then achieve their health goals.

Types of nursing interventions

Just as there are different patients with different medical needs and health conditions, there are different types of nursing interventions to meet their needs. Luckily, nurses aren’t on their own for choosing the best intervention for their patients—or even for remembering what all the options are!

The Nursing Interventions Classification system defines more than 550 nursing intervention labels that nurses can use to provide the proper care to their patients. These interventions are then divided into seven domains, or types of interventions:

  • Behavioral nursing interventions include actions that help a patient change their behavior, such as offering support to quit smoking.
  • Community nursing interventions are those that focus on public health initiatives, such as implementing a diabetes education program.
  • Family nursing interventions are those that impact a patient’s entire family, such as offering a nursing woman support in breastfeeding her new baby, or reducing the threat of illness spreading when one family member is diagnosed with a communicable disease.
  • Health system nursing interventions are actions nurses take as part of a healthcare team to provide a safe medical facility for all patients, such as following procedures to reduce the risk of infection for patients during hospital stays.
  • Physiological nursing interventions are related to a patient’s physical health. These nursing interventions come in two categories: basic and complex. An example of a physiological nursing intervention would be providing IV fluids to a patient who is dehydrated.
  • Safety nursing interventions include actions that maintain a patient’s safety and prevent injuries. These include educating a patient about how to call for assistance if they are not able to safely move around on their own.

As you can see, nursing interventions go beyond simply “fixing” a patient. Nursing interventions are a vital service for patients as nurses care for them in every aspect, including physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. The men and women who perform nursing interventions every day can make a lasting, positive impact on their patients.

Providing high-quality care for patients

A career in nursing gives you plenty of opportunities to step in and improve the lives of others. If this sounds like it could be a good fit for you, you’ll want to check out our article “What Makes a Good Nurse? Experts Reveal What It Takes.

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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