Building Therapeutic Nurse-Patient Relationships: A Case Study of Cultural Sensitivity and Collaborative Care for Major Depressive Disorder

Name: Mr. Victor Chavez
Gender: Male
Age: 69
Ethnicity: Hispanic
Education: High School Diploma
Income: Social Security, Retirement, and Medicare
Religious/Spirituality: Practicing Catholic
Family: Widowed, close to remaining family members
Diagnosis: Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) single episode


Building a strong therapeutic nurse-patient relationship is paramount in providing effective and compassionate care, especially in cases of mental health disorders. This case study delves into the challenges and strategies involved in developing a rapport with Mr. Victor Chavez, a 69-year-old Hispanic male diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) following the loss of his wife. The focus lies on understanding his background, assessing his emotional state, and collaborating on a treatment plan.

Background Assessment

To establish rapport, a nurse must create a comfortable environment where Mr. Chavez feels respected and understood. This requires recognizing his unique cultural context and personal experiences. Mr. Chavez’s Hispanic heritage and strong Catholic faith play pivotal roles in shaping his worldview and coping mechanisms. Cultural competence is crucial to respecting his beliefs and addressing his emotional distress appropriately.

Initial Interaction

Upon introduction, the nurse should convey empathy and patience. Greeting him with respect, “Hello, Mr. Chavez. My name is [Your Name], and I’m a nurse here to provide you with support during this challenging time,” sets the tone for a caring relationship.

Goals for the Nurse-Patient Relationship

Establishing Trust: Creating an atmosphere of trust is fundamental. Mr. Chavez’s sharing of his background and feelings will be pivotal in formulating an effective care plan.

Active Listening: The nurse should employ active listening techniques to understand Mr. Chavez’s feelings, thoughts, and concerns about his illness and treatment. This approach fosters a sense of validation.

Assessment of Suicidal Ideation: Assessing Mr. Chavez’s suicidal thoughts is critical. Gently asking about any thoughts of self-harm or not wanting to live, as well as any potential plans, shows concern for his safety and wellbeing.

Exploring Coping Mechanisms: By inquiring about Mr. Chavez’s faith and how he has been spending his days, the nurse demonstrates an interest in his coping strategies, enabling a dialogue about their effectiveness.

Collaborative Treatment Planning: Engaging Mr. Chavez in decisions regarding his care plan empowers him and fosters a sense of control. Discussing treatment options, including therapy and medication, encourages his active involvement.

Patient Interaction

The interview begins with open-ended questions, such as asking Mr. Chavez about himself and his life before seeking help. This encourages him to share his experiences willingly. The nurse can then ask about his current emotional state and thoughts, “How have you been feeling lately? What has been on your mind?” (National Institute of Mental Health, 2020).

Assessing Suicidal Risk

Sensitive yet direct questioning is essential when discussing suicidal thoughts. The nurse can ask, “I understand you’ve been feeling very sad. Can you tell me more about that? Have you been having any thoughts about hurting yourself or not wanting to live anymore? Have you thought about how you might do that?” (National Institute of Mental Health, 2020; Sirey et al., 2019).

Exploring Coping Mechanisms

To understand Mr. Chavez’s coping mechanisms, the nurse can ask about his faith and daily activities. For instance, “You mentioned you’re practicing Catholic. Has your faith been helping you during this difficult time? How have you been spending your days?” (Sirey et al., 2019).

Cultural Background and Immigrant Experience: A Crucial Lens in Developing Therapeutic Connection

Mr. Victor Chavez’s cultural background and immigrant experience play a pivotal role in shaping his perceptions of mental health and his readiness to seek help. Recognizing and respecting these factors are essential for the nurse to establish a meaningful therapeutic relationship that promotes his emotional well-being.

Cultural Influences on Mental Health: Cultural beliefs and norms significantly influence individuals’ understanding and expression of mental health. Mr. Chavez’s Hispanic heritage and practicing Catholic faith offer insights into his cultural lens. Hispanic cultures often emphasize strong family ties and a collective approach to problem-solving, which can impact his willingness to share emotional struggles with outsiders (Aranda et al., 2018). Furthermore, his Catholic faith may influence his perception of suffering and the role of seeking professional help in times of distress. Integrating cultural awareness into the conversation allows the nurse to approach the topic of mental health with sensitivity and respect.

Stigma and Help-Seeking Attitudes: Immigrant experiences can introduce unique challenges in recognizing and addressing mental health concerns. Immigrants often face acculturation stress, language barriers, and social isolation, which may contribute to elevated stress levels and mental health vulnerabilities (Ransing & Patil, 2021). Additionally, cultural stigma surrounding mental health can deter individuals from seeking assistance. It is vital for the nurse to understand these dynamics to navigate conversations about mental health with cultural humility.

Approach with Cultural Sensitivity: To foster openness, the nurse must approach Mr. Chavez’s cultural background with respect and curiosity. Inquiring, “Could you share your thoughts about mental health and seeking help within your cultural background?” allows him to express his perceptions and feelings without judgment (Aranda et al., 2018). This approach acknowledges his unique perspective and sets the stage for a dialogue that values his experiences.

Navigating Immigrant Experiences: Mr. Chavez’s immigrant journey likely involves both challenges and strengths. His transition to the United States following high school graduation signifies a significant life change that could have influenced his emotional well-being. Factors such as acculturation, language acquisition, and adjustment to a new environment might have contributed to his current state (Ransing & Patil, 2021). By recognizing the potential impact of these experiences, the nurse can create a safe space for Mr. Chavez to share his feelings and fears.

Culturally-Informed Care Plan: Acknowledging Mr. Chavez’s cultural background and immigrant experiences is not only respectful but also informs the development of a tailored care plan. By incorporating his values and beliefs into the treatment approach, the nurse can enhance his engagement and sense of agency. This might involve considering interventions that align with his Catholic faith, involving family members in the therapeutic process, or collaborating with culturally competent mental health professionals who understand his unique challenges (Aranda et al., 2018; Ransing & Patil, 2021).

Collaborative Treatment Planning

Engaging Mr. Chavez in decision-making enhances his commitment to treatment. The nurse can initiate discussion by saying, “We’re here to support you in feeling better. What are some things you think might help you feel more like yourself again? Have you ever considered talking to a mental health professional, like a therapist, about what you’re experiencing?” (Ransing & Patil, 2021).


In nurturing the therapeutic nurse-patient relationship with Mr. Victor Chavez, the nurse employs cultural sensitivity, active listening, and collaboration. By addressing Mr. Chavez’s unique background, assessing his emotional state, and actively involving him in the treatment process, the nurse facilitates a journey toward healing and recovery.


Aranda, M. P., Castañeda, I., Lee, P. J., Sobel, E., DeGennaro, N., & Dickson, V. V. (2018). Challenges and strategies for recruitment of ethnically diverse populations in a home-based intervention study. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 5(3), 566-573.

National Institute of Mental Health. (2020). Major Depression.

Ransing, R., & Patil, B. (2021). Depression, suicide and suicide prevention strategies in South Asia. In Suicide: A Global Perspective (pp. 79-97). Springer.

Sirey, J. A., Meyers, B. S., Teresi, J. A., Bruce, M. L., Ramirez, M., Raue, P. J., … & Alexopoulos, G. S. (2019). The Cornell Services Index: A systematic review and case report assessment. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 27(7), 733-744.