Nurses and Person-Centred Care

Main Article Content

Tesfamicael Ghebrehiwet


At a time when overspecialisation is the norm, nurses and other health professions are challenged to provide holistic care that treats the human person as more than a collection of body organs.  A person-centred approach focuses on addressing the person, rather than their illness condition.  In this model, treatment and care provided by health services place the person and their families at the centre of their own care and with their full participation.In its emphasis on a holistic perspective, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) locates person-centred care within the larger context of family and community in a dynamic and interactive state. This means that a person-centred approach must consider the family and community setting and its impact on the health and illness of the person. Person-centred care is broad in scope and requires a set of skills for nurses and other members of the health team.ICN’s Basic Principles of Nursing Care affirms that the nurse is only justified in deciding for, rather than with, what is good for the patient in highly dependent states, such as when a patient is in a coma. At all other times the rights, values, needs and preferences of people are paramount in decision making and must be used to tailor care to meet the patient’s specific needs.A team approach is the cornerstone of person-centred health care and nurses have a major contribution to make in this context.  In today’s complex health care systems, it is impossible for any one professional group to deliver person-centred care on its own and the team approach is a sine qua non for achieving the desired health outcomes. Nurses are a vital component of health teams and their role in and contribution to health teams is mandated by ethical and professional obligations.  The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses, for example, affirms that “the nurse sustains a co-operative relationship with co-workers in nursing and other fields”.  By their presence in varied health care settings and proximity to patient care, nurses are vital to the delivery of person-centred care.  However, despite this key function of nurses, they are often absent from decision-making and policy matters. This nursing gap in policy participation can be a major barrier to effective health team functioning and can impact on the success of person-centred care. 

Article Details

Third Geneva Conference on Person-Centered Medicine: The Team Approach
Author Biography

Tesfamicael Ghebrehiwet, International Council of Nurses (ICN)

Tesfamicael (Tesfa) Ghebrehiwet, PhD, RN, is Consultant, Nursing and Health Policy, International Council of Nurses (ICN). He joined ICN in 1994. At ICN he is responsible for a number of programme areas including primary health care, HIV/AIDS, research and evidence-based practice, nursing ethics, and mental health. He is also Director of the ICN/MSD Mobile Library Project that delivers books to nurses in developing countries.   From 2004-2007 Dr. Ghebrehiwet directed ICN TB/MDR-TB Project and conducted training in six countries. He is the ICN representative to the World Health Organisation. Dr. Ghebrehiwet started his professional experience in Eritrea and Ethiopia where he held various positions including a staff nurse, nursing supervisor and nurse educator where he led a national training programme for nurses and primary health care workers. Prior to joining ICN, Dr. Ghebrehiwet served as Senior Lecturer and Head, Community Health Nursing Programme, College of Health Sciences, Kingdom of Bahrain. In this capacity he provided leadership in establishing a post-basic community health nursing programme and led the Programme for several years. In addition he thought in the associate degree, post-basic and bachelor of nursing programmes of the College of Health Sciences. He is a native of Eritrea and holds a citizenship of Canada.  Dr. Ghebrehiwet received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Indiana University (USA); Master of Public Health (MPH), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK); and PhD in public health from the University of Southampton (UK). He is the recipient of scholarships and awards including a USAID scholarship to Indiana University and an Award from the Vice-Chancellors and Deans of the UK. He was awarded the top prize for academic excellence during his MPH studies. Dr. Ghebrehiwet has served on a number of WHO consultations including Situational Analysis of the Advanced Nursing Practice Role in Primary Health Care in Oman, Global Outbreak Alert and Response, Patient Safety and HIV/AIDS. He has contributed widely to international journals including the Lancet, International Nursing Review, the World Health Bulletin, Building Quality in Health Care and Nursing Ethics. Dr. Ghebrehiwet is featured in the 2009 Who’s Who in Medicine and Health Care.