To provide quality patient care over a period of time, nurses need a roadmap that guides their actions and quantifies outcomes. As a registered nurse, you will be responsible for creating a plan of care based on each patient’s needs and health goals. A nursing care plan is a formal process that includes six components: assessment, diagnosis, expected outcomes, interventions, rationale, and evaluation.1 Documenting these steps ensures effective communication between doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals over multiple shifts.
Interventions are a key element of the nursing care plan. This guide explores nursing interventions and their role in patient care.
What Are Nursing Interventions?
Nursing interventions can be as simple as adjusting the patient’s bed and resting position—or as involved as psychotherapy and crisis counseling. While some nursing interventions are doctors’ orders, nurse practitioners can also develop orders using principles of evidence-based practice.
Nursing Intervention Categories3
Nursing interventions are grouped into three categories according to the role of the healthcare professional involved in the patient’s care:
- Independent: A nurse can perform independent interventions on their own without assistance from other medical personnel; e.g., routine nursing tasks such as checking vital signs.
- Dependent: Some nursing interventions require instructions or input from a doctor, such as prescribing new medication. A nurse cannot initiate dependent interventions alone.
- Interdependent: Collaborative, or interdependent, nursing interventions involve team members across disciplines. In certain cases, such as post-surgery, the patient’s recovery plan may require a prescription medication from a doctor, feeding assistance from a nurse, and treatment by a physical therapist or occupational therapist.
The Role of Assessments in Choosing Nursing Interventions
The nursing assessment is the first step in the nursing care plan. During the assessment process, both physicians and nurses might ask questions and perform tests to gain information about a patient’s health and state of being. Professionals gather information from the patient’s:
- Vital signs
- Physical complaints or concerns
- External body conditions
- Medical history
- Current neurological functioning
After gathering all essential information during the assessment process, the nurse can use clinical judgment to formulate a nursing diagnosis. Based on the assessment and diagnosis, the nurse can develop a care plan and determine which nursing interventions to include.4 For example, a nurse diagnosis may conclude the patient has a lack of appetite due to post-surgery pain. From this diagnosis, the nurse can set goals to resolve the patient’s pain through nursing interventions. These interventions may include administering pain-relief medication and assessing the patient’s pain levels every few hours.
Nursing Interventions Classification System
There are several types of nursing interventions aimed at meeting the variety of medical needs and conditions of patients. The Nursing Interventions Classification (NIC) system categorizes a wide range of possible treatments that a nurse may perform. The book Nursing Interventions Classification (NIC), 7th ed. evaluates this system, defining over 550 nursing interventions from which a nurse can choose.
NIC categorizes nursing interventions across seven domains:5
1. Family Nursing Interventions6
Family nursing interventions are those that address not only the patient, but other family members as well. They could entail education of family members about caring for the patient; or, in the case of new mothers, interventions could consist of instruction and assistance with breastfeeding and other forms of infant care.
2. Behavioral Nursing Interventions
This category includes actions a nurse takes to help their patient change an unhealthful behavior or habit; for example, suggesting physical and emotional coping methods for a patient who wants to quit smoking.
3. Physiological Nursing Interventions (Basic)
Basic interventions concerning the patient’s physical health include hands-on procedures ranging from feeding to hygiene assistance.
4. Physiological Nursing Interventions (Complex)
Some physiological nursing interventions are more complex, such as the insertion of an IV line to administer fluids to a dehydrated patient.
5. Community Nursing Interventions
Some hospitals and clinics focus on public health initiatives to educate patients, their families, and local communities. These community nursing interventions are organized efforts that encourage general health and wellness. For example, many clinics and pharmacies are currently administering the COVID-19 vaccine, or a hospital may offer a free education program about diabetes or organize a fun run to raise money for breast cancer research.
6. Safety Nursing Interventions
After undergoing surgery, patients need education on safety procedures and protocols to prevent injury. These safety interventions may include instructions for using a walker or a cane or how to take a shower safely.
7. Health System Interventions
During their shift, nurses take the initiative to ensure that the patient’s environment is safe and comfortable, such as repositioning them to avoid pressure ulcers in bed. These routine procedures classify as health system interventions.
While a nurse may not use every type of intervention every day, each is an essential form of care needed to maintain the patient’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Key Nursing Interventions to Perform Each Shift7
On-duty nurses routinely perform certain nursing interventions as part of their daily tasks. In addition to educating the patient on their care and recovery progression, nurses will typically perform the following each shift:
- Pain control: Ensuring that the patient is comfortable and monitoring their intake of pain medication, if applicable
- Position changes: Promoting a change of the patient’s resting position to prevent bedsores
- Active listening: Listening to the patient and repeating back information so they feel heard
- Cluster care: Informing other nurses and medical staff of the patient’s needs each shift to help consolidate trips and avoid frequent traffic in the patient’s room
- Fall prevention: Educating the patient, generally someone who is elderly or recovering post-surgery, of instructions to avoid the risk of fall and injury
- Adequate oral intake: Promoting fluid consumption by mouth for patients currently receiving fluid through IVs as a means to decrease and discontinue IV use
Creating a safe environment, promoting good health practices, and listening closely to patients are daily nursing interventions you will perform and perfect throughout your career as a nurse. If you aspire to a nurse leadership role, such as a nurse manager or executive, you may eventually oversee and strategize care plans for hundreds of patients. With an advanced career in nursing, you can lead initiatives to improve the quality of care and make lasting, positive impacts on patient lives.
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, and Post-Graduate Nursing Certificates designed for working nurses. Our degrees are offered online, with optional on-campus immersions* (currently postponed due to COVID-19). Role specialties include Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Nurse Educator,** and Nurse Executive. The MSN has several options to accelerate your time to degree completion, allowing you to complete coursework when you want and earn your advanced nursing degree while keeping your work and life in balance.
*The FNP role specialty includes two required hands-on clinical intensives as part of the curriculum.
**The Nurse Educator role specialty is not available for the DNP program.
- Helen Ballantyne, “Developing nursing care plans,” Nursing Standard, Feb. 24, 2016: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26907149/
- nursing intervention. (n.d.) Medical Dictionary. (2009). Retrieved April 22 2021, https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/nursing+intervention
- RN Speaks, “Nursing Interventions – The Core of Nursing Process,” Sept. 3, 2020, https://rnspeak.com/nursing-interventions/
- NIH, National Library of Medicine, “Nursing Admission Assessment and Examination,” Sept. 2, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493211/
- NIH, National Library of Medicine, “NIC (Nursing Interventions Classification) – Synopsis,” 2007, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/research/umls/sourcereleasedocs/current/NIC/index.html
- Eustace, R. W., Gray, B., & Curry, D. M. (2015). The meaning of family nursing intervention: what do acute care nurses think?. Research and theory for nursing practice, 29(2), 125–142. https://doi.org/10.1891/1541-6522.214.171.124
- In Home Care, “Nursing Interventions for Home Care,” Dec. 26, 2019: https://www.inhomecare.com/what-is-nursing-intervention-guide-to-nurse-interventions/