Communicating With Patients: 9 Tips and Tricks
When you work in the medical profession, one of your main responsibilities is communicating with patients. Whether you need to speak to them about a particular diagnosis, a specific approach to their treatment or just simply provide them with some tips that are related to preventative health care, expressing yourself with clear and concise communication is always essential to providing good patient care.
Because dealing with someone’s health is always a sensitive matter that you should treat with the utmost discretion, we wanted to offer you a few tips on how you can effectively communicate with your patients. The goal is to make them feel more informed about health and well-being and more confident in your ability to be responsible for their care.
Encourage them to have someone else present. One thing to keep in mind is that for many people, talking to a medical professional can be a bit intimidating. Not only are you a person of authority to your patients, but their very lives are also in your hands. Before a patient comes in to see you, it might be good to recommend that she bring someone along to the appointment. She may need the moral support or just an extra set of ears as you review details of her medical care. Either way, suggesting to your patients that they bring someone with them can help take some of the pressure off, making them feel more comfortable with you.
Be kind and compassionate. It may seem like two very simple things but a little kindness and compassion can go a long way, especially when it comes to patient care. There are a lot of people who walk into doctors’ offices or hospitals and they’re immediately anxious simply because they don’t know what to expect. By keeping a kind and compassionate disposition, it can quickly calm your patient’s senses, ease her mind and relieve her of any fears she may have. Something as simple as a smile or a kind gesture can make a huge difference when dealing with patients.
Speak in a “language” that they can understand. It can be overwhelming for a patient to listen to nurses discuss a particular diagnosis or a physical issue she is facing. The easiest thing you can do to help your patients understand her health is to speak to her on a level that she can truly understand. By keeping it simple and using familiar words, you avoid any potential miscommunication that may arise if you go more of a textbook route and overuse fancy jargon you may normally use.
Explain complex information slowly. If what’s going on with your patient’s health is somewhat complex, there’s a pretty good chance that while you’re talking to them about it, they are going to interrupt you multiple times with questions. One thing you can do to prevent this from happening (or at least happening repeatedly) is to speak slowly and to take slight pauses between each statement. That gives your patient time to process what you’re saying, which can often curb interruptions that may arise.
Prepare yourself to repeat some things. Although it can sometimes be challenging to repeat yourself over and over again, when you’re dealing with a patient, it’s an inevitability for which you should prepare yourself. Keep in mind that more than anything, your patients are seeking clarity and that sometimes requires you needing to go back over certain pieces of information with them so that they can fully understand what is happening with their health.
Thoroughly explain risks and complications. If your patient has an ailment that requires some type of medication in order to treat it, more often than not that medication is going to come with a few side effects. No matter how minor some of those complications may be, it’s important to thoroughly explain all of them to your patient so that she can make an educated decision about using the medications and preparing for issues that may arise.
Ask if they have any questions. Once you are finished discussing the details of their health, you can safely assume that your patients are going to have some questions; many times, they’ll be too afraid to ask without you prompting them. If you notice that your patient is being particularly quiet near the end of her appointment, be sure to ask if she has any questions before she leaves. That will help to get you both on the same page and may also help her open up about any concerns she may be having about her health in general (which can be helpful for you to know about as well).
Patiently listen. There are going to be times when you’ll have the kind of patient who has a lot to say about her health care. You may be inclined to interrupt so that you can keep your appointment moving forward in a timely fashion; however, while providing medical care, patience is a necessary virtue for all nurses looking to promote a feeling of safety and mutual trust. Make sure that while your patient is talking to you that you listen patiently and let her complete sentences and thoughts. Also use your body language to engage her as much as possible, letting her know that you care, even if she is the one doing all the talking.
Don’t take reactions too personally. If you’re a nurse and you happened to get your degree through an online RN to MSN program, something that you might have learned in your training is that you shouldn’t take reactions from patients too personally. In most cases, what they’re saying is wholly reactionary to their predicament so if you are able to stay pleasant and supportive even while dealing with the most outspoken patients, you can help to relieve them of their fears which also enhances the level of trust that you share while they’re in your care.