Abraham Maslow's theory on the hierarchy of needs posits that humans are motivated by the intrinsic need for self-actualization. Needs must be met in a hierarchical structure where meeting one need propels the individual to seek meeting "higher" needs. Maslow's theory is predicated on a breakdown of five basic needs: physiological needs (food, water), safety, love and belonging, esteem and self actualization. Nurses can apply Maslow's theory to their practice of patient care. Each person's needs must be met individually in order for them to feel satisfied, cared for and cooperative.

Identify the level of care required for the patient. Nurses working in a clinical setting will not need to attend to the need for food and water, but do need to protect the safety and privacy for their patients. Confirming what setting the patient will receive care can help you to understand which patient needs must be met first.

Evaluate patient communication to determine what needs are not being met. Body language that includes slouching can reflect a need for respect while crossed arms can denote a need for safety. Grumpy tones and harsh words can also reflect a need for care and concern.

Adjust your behavior towards your patients to show acknowledgement of those needs. Express concern to grumpy patients. Be transparent about procedures and processes to insecure patients. Speak intelligently and respectfully to patients whose behavior indicates a desire for respect. Understand that patients may feel like they are at the mercy of their health and at the medical staff to restore them.

Allow yourself to form a bond with patients. Patients in extended care programs, such as residents in nursing homes, will benefit from bonding with their caretakers. Laugh, joke and enjoy their individual personalities. Express real concern over their lamentations and enjoy when they share happy news of their lives. They do so to bond with you, so embrace it.

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