Linda Finch, PhD, RN

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Uncovering the Science Behind the Value of Caring

When Linda Finch, PhD, RN, made her first attempt to garner an ANF grant, she was not successful. But because reviewers' took the time to offer their advice, she was able to resubmit a stronger research proposal, which led to her becoming a 2004 ANF scholar.

"My whole area of focus has been looking at the nurse-patient relationship and particularly the caring piece of it," says Finch, a Tennessee Nurses Association member.

To approach caring scientifically, she used grounded theory to gain hard data from nurses and patients.

"I wanted to understand how caring is perceived by nurses and patients, what they viewed as caring behaviors, and what it is that moves patients positively toward better outcomes," Finch says. "What I learned from patients' perspective is they really want a nurse who cares for them as a family member would."

Patients identified those caring behaviors in a nurse as being responsive to all their needs, including physical, emotional and spiritual; willing to do extra things; and following through on promises.

The data reinforced the continued need to teach students about looking at patients multi-dimensionally, according to Finch, an assistant professor at the University of Memphis in Tennessee.

From the nurses' perspective, Finch found that their definition of caring behaviors included being attentive to patients, developing a rapport with patients and demonstrating their competency. Finch notes that today's workplace environment, however, challenges nurses' ability to do extra things for patients and follow up on care.

Looking back at being awarded the ANF grant, she says it allowed her to complete her work more quickly and paid for the costly transcription costs associated with qualitative studies. She also was able to present her findings at a major international nursing conference, which piqued the interest of the nursing community.

Having explored the importance of caring to older adults, Finch now is collecting data from chronically ill pediatric patients and their nurses on the role of caring on patient outcomes. Her overall goal is to develop a formal theory of nurse caring that will inform practice, encourage educational applications, and guide further research.