Relations between long-term care nurses and residents can be understood through the concept of “reciprocity,” and cultivating certain types of reciprocity can improve care, according to recent research out of the University of South Australia.

Three types of reciprocity have been theorized previously and all are seen in long-term settings, the investigators found through two sets of interviews with nurses. They also proposed a fourth type.

An example of “positive reciprocity” is a resident who offers chocolate to a nurse who administers medication. “Negative reciprocity” is the opposite, such as when a resident lashes out after rough handling. “Generalized reciprocity” is shown by nurses who provide good care because they hope their own parents would receive good care.

“Professional reciprocity” is the type proposed by the researchers. It is the deliberate effort to build positive relationships to promote therapeutic outcomes. This shift from a “Nightingale model” of impersonal professionalism has been shown to increase nurse satisfaction and improve outcomes through cooperative interactions with patients, the researchers noted. To promote professional reciprocity, the authors urged education and working environments that provide nurses ample time for meaningful interactions with residents.