For nurses, communication is essential for success. You need to listen to patients, give instructions and relay vital information to others. This isn’t an easy task, but you can rise to the challenge.
Take Time to Connect With the Patient
A nurse’s work life is hectic. You have charts to fill out, tasks to complete and people waiting in other rooms. You may think you don’t have time to chat with patients; however, Press Ganey Chief Nursing Officer Christy Dempsey argues, done correctly, you can make a connection in as little as 56 seconds. She advises introducing yourself, asking for the patient’s name, reviewing the day’s schedule, and then inquiring, “When you’re not in the hospital, what do you like to do?” According to Dempsey, in most cases, this simple question is enough to find common ground and create both meaningful and personalized interactions.
Show Some Empathy
As a nurse running through your daily chores, it’s easy to forget most patients are terrified. They may not know what is wrong, if they will get better, how this will affect their family and whether they can pay the bill. Routinely take a step back and put yourself in each patient’s shoes. Looking at medical treatment from the opposite point of view allows you to be more understanding and effective.
Adjust to Your Audience
A conversation with a doctor should sound completely different than a conversation with a patient. After all, many people aren’t familiar with technical medical terms. Therefore, you’ll need to explain things to different people in unique ways. Also remember, some patients, especially those with long-term illnesses, will know more about their condition than those who are newly diagnosed. To be helpful, keep your audience in mind.
Use the Teach-Back Method
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may not know if you are getting through to a patient and/or their family. This is where the teach-back method comes in handy. After you have explained something, ask the patient to repeat what you just said in their own words. If they understand, great. If not, you’ll have the chance to try again.
Follow Proper Procedures
Your hospital or medical facility will have communication processes in place. Even if you don’t agree with all steps, recognize everything has a purpose and stay within the rules. Pay special attention to how you hand off patients. You want to make sure your fellow nurses and doctors have all the information they need. Two commonly used tools are SBAR (S = Situation, B = Background, A = Assessment, R = Recommendation) and I-PASS (I = Illness severity, P = Patient summary, A = Action list, S = Situation awareness and contingency planning, S = Synthesis by receiver).
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