Better Bedside: How Nurses Can Improve Their Patient Engagement Skills
A good bedside manner, the way in which a healthcare professional interacts with their patients, can aid in diagnosis, helps with treatment, and encourages the patient to feel like a person instead of a case. The most important factor in developing a good bedside manner is establishing a rapport. Rapport helps to break out of the nurse/patient relationship and encourages a casual environment more reminiscent of one person chatting with another person. A degree in healthcare or health law is a way to learn and improve patient engagement skills.
Listen to the Patient
Everyone wants to be understood. Nurses need to give patients their undivided attention when they are talking with them. Encourage the patient to talk about the presenting problem and its history. When the patient has described their symptoms and history, nurses can then begin to evaluate the information the patient has provided, and to ask questions. This is especially important in differential diagnoses of conditions that have similar signs and symptoms.
Have Empathy, Not Just Sympathy
Sympathy is saying, “I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.” Empathy is understanding what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Nurses should provide the level of service that they would expect, were their role and the patient’s role reversed.
Genuinely Care About the Patient
Healthcare is a profession of sharing in the responsibility of the well-being of patients. Give the best treatment possible to the person who is present right now. Patients are more likely to follow the directions of nurses who really care about their health, rather than nurses they feel don’t really understand or care about them.
Be Tactfully Honest
Patients can become negative and discouraged when problems with their health cause them to seek medical care. Nurses should consider the emotional impact a prognosis will have on the patient, and use the rapport they have established to deliver the news.
Nurses with good patient engagement skills take the time to listen and to understand their patients. They show genuine care and empathy towards patients. They are aware of the emotional impact that their behavior can have on those patients and understand the legal and practical consequences of improper practitioner-patient interaction. Having healthcare master’s degrees can be invaluable in learning these skills. These are all important factors in establishing a good rapport.
The patient engagement skills listed above are not just good for nurses—they will benefit healthcare professionals in whatever capacity they serve. Healthcare providers need to learn and cultivate sound patient engagement skills to develop a good bedside manner. Doing so will provide a better experience for both the patient and the provider.
About the Author: Marlena Stoddard is a freelance writer who received her BA from University of Georgia.
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