Good bedside manner (the way in which you interact and communicate with your patient) can have a noticeable impact on your patient reviews. But more importantly, good bedside manner can have a noticeable impact on your patients’ health as well.
“Our results show that the beneficial effects of a good patient-clinician relationship on health care outcomes are of similar magnitude to many well-established medical treatments,” says psychologist John Kelley. “Many of these medical treatments, while very important, need to balance their benefits against accompanying unwanted side effects. In contrast, there are no negative side effects to a good patient-clinician relationship.”
It’s amazing to think about—that the way a nurse talks to their patient can have a direct impact on their health. It also makes it even more important for nurses to go that extra mile in making sure they establish a good, open relationship with their patients, something that’s sometimes difficult to do when it feels like you’re being pulled twenty directions at once.
The good news is, there are simple but effective ways to boost the power of your bedside manner. Here are eight of our favorites.
- Give Them Your Full Focus – You may have a hundred other things happening, but don’t let your patient know that. As long as you’re in their room, let them know that they have your full focus. Nothing builds a connection faster than feeling like you matter to someone. Good eye-contact is a fantastic way of doing this.
- Listen Carefully – Some people listen to understand, others listen to respond. If you want to make a good impression, be the former, not the latter. Let the patient know you’re hearing them and understanding them. It’s a quick way to let them know you’re on their side.
- Ask Open-Ended Questions – “Yes” or “No” questions are impersonal, and the one-word answers won’t give you very much insight into your patient. Look for questions that force them to expound—for example, asking them “How does this feel” instead of “Does this hurt” opens the door to a lot more potential information.
- Forget The Shop Talk – You spend your day among co-workers who can rattle off medical jargon like a second language, but your patient probably isn’t one of those people. Keep your terms simple and easy to understand, otherwise you risk raising their anxiety level when they hear a flurry of terms they aren’t familiar with.
- Plan Your Exit – Some patients don’t like to talk… others won’t stop talking. This can be an issue when you really need to move on to your next patient but don’t want to appear rude. Find some tried and true exit phrases or ways to get the conversation back on track, then use them to regain control of the moment without making your patient feel brushed off.
- Knock Knock – The power of humor in medicine can’t be overstated, and humor in bedside manner is especially powerful. Finding the right moment (and the appropriate topic) might take some doing, but if you can get a patient to crack a smile, you’ve won. (The Atlantic did a fantastic article on the subject of humor in medicine if you’d like to read more.)
- Introduce Yourself – One of the quickest ways to make a connection is to simply tell your patient who you are. And don’t be afraid to introduce yourself multiple times—they’re going to be pretty distracted and may have difficulty remembering the names of all the medical staff they’ve met, so frequent reminders of who you are can take a lot of that stress off their minds.
- Be Observant – Look for the little things in their body language, in what appears to be missing in their room, in the way they talk to you, etc. Spotting a small favor you can do for them—like bringing water for their “Get Well” flowers—lets them know they aren’t alone.
There are many other ways to improve your bedside manner, but it all comes down to simply caring for the people in that bed or on that exam table. If you really care, it can’t help but shine through, and that can’t help but make a difference.