Patient satisfaction is a major issue in many health care settings these days. No longer are patients simply treated and sent on their way; providers are paying closer attention to how happy their patients are with their care and placing a greater emphasis on customer service. And with changes in the health care landscape on the horizon tying patient satisfaction to financial reimbursement, the notion of providing excellent care has taken on a new urgency.
One way that nurses can help their patients feel satisfied with their care is by communicating caring. By letting patients know that they care through what they say and do, nurses can play an important role in improving both their patients’ lives and the overall health care environment.
Communicate Positive Intent
As a nurse, you know what needs to be done and when. Many of your tasks are second nature to you — so much so that during the course of a busy day, you might find that you complete some tasks without completely explaining what you’re doing to the patient. But if you go about your duties without communicating, a patient might feel as if he or she hasn’t been acknowledged. If you want your patients to understand what you are doing and feel that they are receiving excellent care, communicate your positive intent at every opportunity. That means explaining the benefits of what you are doing, whether it’s providing medication, helping them change positions or checking vital signs.
Pay Attention to Nonverbal Communication
Communicating with patients doesn’t only refer to what you say — you send powerful messages through your facial expressions and body language as well. When a patient is telling you about a concern, or describing a pain, do you make eye contact and show an expression of concern? Or are you busy moving around the room, checking charts and running through your to-do list of tasks? When a patient presses the call button, do you stroll into the room leisurely while still chatting with a co-worker in the hallway, or do you come in with a sense of urgency, showing the patient that you’re concerned about his or her needs? Showing the right amount of concern, empathy and urgency through your nonverbal communication is vital to showing care to your patients.
Nowhere is your nonverbal communication more important than when you are listening to your patients. One of the most common complaints among patients is that they feel that their caregivers do not listen or aren’t really present when providing care. To communicate your care, engage in active listening. That means making eye contact, letting the patient speak without interruption and acknowledging the person’s feelings. For example, when listening to a patient express concern about a treatment, allow them to finish explaining the problem before asking any questions; perhaps say something like “I imagine that these potential side effects are quite frightening to you. Can I ask a few questions to make sure I fully understand before we try to find a solution?” Such communication shows that you heard the patient and that you are interested in helping solve the problem.
Everyone wants to be appreciated — even your patients. When a patient expresses a concern or offers a compliment, express your appreciation. Simply saying “thank you for bringing that to my attention” lets your patient know that you heard them, and that what they have to say is valuable. Offering sincere appreciation for what the patient is going through also goes a long way. You never want to be condescending, but telling a patient that you admire their courage or that you’re impressed with their recovery lets them know that their struggles — and triumphs — have not gone unnoticed.
Apologize Without Assigning or Accepting Blame
At some point, things will inevitably go wrong: Procedures will be rescheduled, medications will be late, a patient will have an unpleasant interaction with a doctor or lab technician. When patients complain about these problems, express regret, but don’t find someone to blame. Saying “I’m sorry you’re having a rough morning,” shows the patient that you feel bad about the problem, but doesn’t create a culture of blame and negativity. You have to have positive relationships with your co-workers as well, and constantly assigning blame in front of patients will damage those relationships.
Many of the communication skills that are vital to positive and effective nurse-patient interactions can be learned, and are a vital part of any nurse education program. If you want to improve your communication with patients while also improving your career prospects, you could look here for RN to BSN courses online. Take time to practice caring communication in every patient interaction, and you’ll see an improvement in your patient satisfaction reports.
About the Author: After nearly a decade as an RN, Nina Brown went back to school to earn her BSN degree. Although she loves her work as on the maternity level at a large northeast hospital, she is considering a career shift into nursing education.