The Power of Your Touch

I have been thinking a lot lately about the power of our touch as nurses. We can have such an impact on our patients through a simple touch of the hand, a pat on the back or a hand or back rub. Interpersonal touch is an important aspect in building trust and cooperation with our patients.  It helps us create a bond.  It is well documented that we need touch as infants for healthy development and this need for touch continues throughout our lives. There is no replacement for touch, if culturally appropriate, when a patient needs to be consoled or comforted.


Touch is also an excellent form of nonverbal communication. Matthew Hertenstein, a psychologist, at DePauw University did a study (2009) on touch as a form of nonverbal communication. He measured the participant’s ability to send or receive messages related to anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness and sadness. The results of his study indicated a message sent via touch was interpreted accurately as high as 78% of the time. Other research in this field indicates that when one is touched it lowers our stress hormones.  This probably explains why we self massage. Rubbing our forehead or hands, flipping our hair and massaging our neck slows the heart rate and lowers the stress hormone cortisol. And since you can’t touch someone without being touched the benefits are reciprocal. Self-care while providing care!


Backrub anyone?