Tips for Bonding with Your Patients and Their Family
Administrative discussions about health care quality are no longer strictly confined to outcomes. Today, positive outcomes include patient satisfaction data as part of every quality metric. Achieving patient satisfaction is largely a part of the relationships, and face-to-face interactions a patient experiences during their hospital stay. This has extended the importance of bedside manner to every member of the care team with the majority of it resting on the person who spends the most time with the patient, the nursing professional. Because having a good bedside manner is more important than ever, let’s look at ways a nurse can cultivate positive relationships during the time a patient is under his or her care.
- Slow and steady wins the race. When communicating with your patient, it is important to tap the brakes and slow down, so nothing is misinterpreted or missed because you are rushing on to your next patient. Remember, your patient is in the hospital because they are in need of care, are likely scared and easily confused. Avoid rapid-fire questions that only serve to exacerbate feelings of confusion and discomfort. Ask open-ended questions which lead to your patient having an opportunity to provide you with critical information that you may not get if you are too narrow and direct with your questions.
- Practice Active Listening. If you take only one thing from this post, take this one. By utilizing active listening techniques, you can instantly improve the quality of your patient communication. Active listening includes the utilization of both verbal and non-verbal techniques. Maintain eye contact with your patient and try and speak to them at their level. Sometimes that means you may have to physically put yourself at their vantage point to avoid the appearance of speaking down to them. Active listening also includes reflecting the key points of what they said in your response to them. This ensures that you not only understand what they have told you but puts them at ease that they are being heard. For example, “So, if I hear you correctly, you are experiencing A or B….”
- Honesty is still the best policy. It is critical that you earn trust with your patient. This means that creating false impressions or creating unrealistic expectations can only serve to let your patient down. Setting honest and realistic expectations will better help them understand their situation without losing trust in the healthcare team.
- Stay the course. Yes, there are going to be times when your patient needs more time than you think you have at the moment. Those are the times you earn your stripes as having a great bedside manner. If the patient is upset about an upcoming procedure or having received bad news, now is not the time to rush or try to change the subject so you can move onto the next room. It is better to acknowledge what they are saying and let them work through their emotions. Expressing compassion and empathy at these critical moments are what sets you apart and what solidifies the rapport you are developing with those in your care. That is not to say you have to stay with them for another thirty minutes, but acknowledging their feelings and providing a few additional moments of comfort goes a long way.
- Mind your body language. A good portion of your bedside manner will be in how you are perceived. Your non-verbal actions play a large role in that perception making it extremely important that each time you cross the threshold into a patient’s room, you leave everything behind and put on your best professional face for those in the room. A smile can instantly put people at ease and should be your go-to expression whenever appropriate. Always maintain open body language to welcome communication with your patient, this means crossing your arms is discouraged at all times. Other things to avoid include tapping your pen or foot, shuffling things around in the room with no purpose, or absently flipping through pages of a chart. Maintain eye contact, and your focus should always be on the patient.
Your bedside manner extends to family members also. One of the surest ways to having a dissatisfied patient is to have a dissatisfied family member. The last thing you want is for the family to have a new topic of conversation as they while away the hours at bedside. When you leave the room, you are aiming for someone to say, “Wow, that nurse was so nice and so thorough!” What you don’t want is, “Wow, I wonder what is bugging that nurse! She wasn’t even listening to you!”
What are your keys to having a good bedside manner? Share your tips in the comment section below or drop by our Facebook page and leave us your comments.