Portrait of a Questioning Man Holding Happy and Unhappy Survey Mood Board

Surviving the Satisfaction Survey

Anyone who has read a Patient Satisfaction Survey (you can find an example here) knows they can be daunting. And if your future clinic or hospital tracks patient satisfaction this way, then as a nurse, the surveys can be even more daunting.

For many hospitals, there’s a financial incentive for higher patient satisfaction scores, and so averaging those high numbers can quickly become a high priority-a priority that gets passed down to doctors, nurses, and assistants. There are arguments for and against these types of surveys-having happy patients is certainly a plus, but opponents fear that if doctors and nurses focus only on a patient’s satisfaction, they may not focus enough on actually healing the patient.

But arguing about whether or not hospitals and clinics should have surveys doesn’t change the fact that many do, and if you work at one of these locations, there are a few things you can do to help keep those scores on the upper half of the grading scale.

Eye Contact is a great place to start. A recent study found that strong eye contact during short visits (plus a moderate amount of social touch) makes medical professionals appear to be more empathetic-a strong positive among patients. Maintaining that eye contact builds a personal connection with your patient and lets them know that you see them and respect them as a person. Avoiding eye contact or staring at notes the entire visit comes across as cold and impersonal. However, the same study also found that prolonged eye contact over a longer visit has a negative effect, so don’t think that simply staring at your patient is going to win you any bonus points. In fact, they might just request a different nurse.

Next, put yourself in the patient’s shoes. An article on Forbes.com suggests that you occasionally park where your patients park, see how difficult it is to navigate the halls in crutches, or walk with a non-employee as they try and navigate the building. If you spot something that could make a patient’s day even a little easier, you’re taking a step in a positive direction.

Third, understand that no patient’s stay will be perfect, and be prepared to handle complaints quickly and properly. “Most complainants are hoping that their concerns are acknowledged quickly, their fears allayed, apologies provided and that learning has been achieved,” writes chief nurse Kay Fawcett. In other words, most patients won’t expect you to move mountains-they just want to be heard and understood.

And finally, learn from your results. It’s tough to get critical feedback, and you will get your share of comments written by patients or family members who are simply frustrated with their situation and are using the survey as a medium. But if your results consistently point to an area where you need improvement, don’t get upset at the test… improve! No one likes reading ways that they aren’t perfect, but by identifying weaknesses and turning them into strengths, we become better nurses and better people.

For more information on becoming a nurse through one of Unitek College’s nursing programs, contact us here.