A good bedside manner is an invaluable tool

Nurse with elder male patient

As we all know, having a good bedside manner helps build a trusting relationship with patients. In nursing school, our lecturers explain how we should behave at a patient’s bedside. They tell us to be kind, caring and respectful. Hearing this instruction is helpful, but being able to practice it face-to-face with patients is an invaluable lesson. What we learn through nursing, is that patients want to know you respect them and genuinely care. They feel vulnerable while in the hospital and sometimes do not understand the medical terminology used by healthcare professionals. Often, patients’ family members feel a similar sense of vulnerability and helplessness. Having a good bedside manner can help us ease their feelings of vulnerability and tackle their challenges.  You can make all the difference by developing a good side manner, as it may stop someone from feeling lonely or afraid.

As a nurse, the way you approach patients and the kind of relationship you develop, can have a measurable effect on how they feel about their illness, current environment and treatment. All this can impact their health outcomes.  A good nurse-client relationship is essential in ensuring quality patient care, with communication being the key in making it possible for the patient to feel good and recover.  How is your nurse bedside manner?

Here are 8 tips in developing a good bedside manner:

  1. SMILE!

Patients appreciate when you enter the room with a smile, it can make a patient’s day better. A smile immediately lets patients know that you’re approachable and it creates a level of openness and trust.  A patient having a bad day does not need the added stress of having a nurse with a negative attitude. It is not always appropriate to enter a patient’s room with a smile on your face, but we can always present a positive attitude and give off positive energy. This is something that we need to learn and perfect.

  1. MAINTAIN YOUR FOCUS

It is important to leave our personal problems at home in order to provide excellent patient-centered care to the best of our abilities. By starting out the day with patients, not ourselves – as our primary focus, we can give them our undivided attention.   Develop a couple of simple conversational openers such as ‘Good Morning, I’m Allison your nurse. How are you feeling this morning?’ ORIs there anything you want to specifically talk about before I check your chart?’  This way you’re inviting your patient to share information.

  1. PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING

Active listening requires your full concentration on what a patient is saying and on their body language, so you can thoroughly understand their needs and questions. This practice is extremely important; it gives us the information we need to be effective patient advocates. We also must give our full attention to family members in order to help them cope with a patient’s illness.  Pay particular attention to the words your patient is using, how they speak, the gestures, body language expressions. These can tell you a lot about whether they’re tired, potentially uncomfortable, and give you reasons to ask more questions.

  1. SHOW RESPECT

Respect can be demonstrated in several ways. For instance, if you are not familiar with a patient’s cultural practices, do some research and find out what you need to know in order to respect their wishes and those of family members. Also, if a patient wants to speak to another team member about a procedure, the care plan or anything else, make sure you follow up on that request on your patient’s behalf. When you tell a patient, you are going to do something for them, do it!

  1. ASK QUESTIONS

I was once advised by a NUM, when you enter a patient’s room ask “How are you feeling today?” and “What are your goals and how can I help you to accomplish them?” When you are leaving the room ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with before I leave?”  Be sure to mean what you say and maintain eye contact as you speak with a patient, rather than asking the questions as you are just about to leave the room.

  1. KEEP EYE CONTACT

Eye contact helps build trust and a genuine person-to-person connection. Take a dive, and look your patients in the eye. Pause between questions if you’re charting or taking notes, and take time to make eye contact.

  1. EMPATHY

Along with communication skills, instilling empathy in nursing is key.  Patients feel heard, supported, cared for and validated when someone is taking the time to truly walk through the steps of empathy with them.  Rather than focus on fixing or making patients and their loved ones feel better, shifting that focus to just feeling with them can be significantly more meaningful.

Empathy is necessary for a healthcare provider to connect with patients and, at times, can be more effective in-patient care than technical ability. In fact, one of the strongest arguments for empathy in the healthcare setting is the strong correlation between having a good patient-provider relationship and a positive treatment outcome.

  1. NON-VERBAL CUES

Sometimes a patient’s body language tells a very different story. The patient avoiding eye contact, facial expressions, gestures or posture are all signs of someone who is not at all fine. Non-verbal cues are nearly impossible to fake, often paint a picture of what’s really going, and are more accurate than words. When used with awareness, non-verbal communication is a powerful way to build rapport and strengthen nurse-patient relationships.

It’s always important to remember that not only are nurses are vital health carers they are also advocates for patients in many instances.  By developing a good bedside manner, you can not only provide a better experience for patients, but you can learn to gather critical information which can be passed onto your peers so that the best outcomes can be delivered every time.

If every visit with your patients contains all of these elements, it won’t take long for the word to get around about how great your bedside manner is and what a terrific nurse you are. No matter what people feel about nurses in general, they will be happy to have you as their nurse. Your image among patients will soar, and more importantly, your patients will get good care from someone they trust.


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