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It's all in the smile
For anyone that knows me, you know that I love to smile and have a laugh. My parents didn't give me the nickname of 'Sunnyboy' when I was born for no reason. For some nurses, they believe that smiling and laughing means that you don't take your job seriously. But! On the contrary, when patients see you smiling and laughing they immediately know that you enjoy your job. A simple smile when greeting them will allow them to feel calmer, and will make it more likely that your patient will trust you. So remember - smile! :)
Remember to say who you are
Now this is an important one. I see a lot of nurses forget to introduce themselves to their patient and the patients relatives. This may seem like an easily forgotten oversight when work is busy, but it makes a massive difference to patients and family. As a patient, they want to know who is looking after them. So when I first meet my patient I say something like "Hi, my name is Nick. I'll be looking after you today." If my patient appears to be anxious prior to their surgery I usually say something like "I'll be with you every step of the way, looking after you." Communication like this makes a massive difference to patients experience.
We all do amazing jobs, but lots of that work is behind the scenes and the patient will never know about it. It's effective, kind and caring communication with our patients that they will remember.
Questions or Concerns
This one is just as important as introducing yourself! Sometimes patients don't get an opportunity to openly discuss their questions or concerns. It's important that we provide an opportunity for patients to seek clarification and ask any questions that they may have. This is best achieved by asking open ended questions such as - "do you have an questions that I can answer for you?", "do you understand what Dr. **** said?", or "feel free to ask me any questions you have, I'm more than happy to help."
This one goes hand-in-hand with smiling. Non-verbal communication makes up 70% of communication. There are numerous ways to make our non-verbal communication positive and approachable, which will allow our patients to form deeper connections with us. Firstly, facial expressions are important, this touches back on the smiling (read above). Eye contact is also important. We want to make sure that we make eye contact with our patients to demonstrate that we are actively listening and engaging with the conversation. Our proximity from the patient is something that we should also think about. If we are far away from our patient it may appear that we are lecturing them, however if we get closer to the patient it forms a more intimate and trusting conversation. Our posture should remain open and welcoming, this is achieved by not crossing our arms, keeping our shoulders back and being in line with the patient. Gestures should remain friendly. Refrain from pointing to other people or place as this can be misconstrued as something rude.
Other non-verbal communication that we probably less familiar with are haptics and paralinguistics. Haptic involves touching. For nurses this could be in the form of holding the hand of someone who is upset, or being a shoulder to cry on for our patients. Paralinguistics is the way we say things. It involves pitch, tone, speed, loudness and projection. We need to self reflect on the way we say things to make sure that the message carries the meaning that we want.
Hiding behind a clipboard or chart
Have you ever seen those nurses who hold a patients chart or clipboard in front of them? The ones that barely look at their patient and just talk and document? That's not a good look. It makes the patient feel like we are uninterested and uncaring.
Remember effective, positive and reassuring communication is the key to gain our patients our trust and be able to care for them holistically.
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Anaesthesia & Critical Care Nurse, Leader & Teacher