As we all know, having a good bedside manner helps build a trusting relationship with patients. In class, our professors explain how we should behave at a patient’s bedside. They tell us to be kind, caring and respectful. Hearing this instruction at school is helpful, but being able to practice it face-to-face with patients is an invaluable lesson.
I am in my last clinical rotation at NewYork-Presbyterian, and what I have learned through nursing school and from my mentor 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 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.
Here are some tips to developing a good bedside manner:
Patients appreciate when you enter the room with a smile. Recently, a patient told me how much she appreciated how the nurses on the unit always came into her room smiling; it simply made her day better. 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.
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, and that is exactly what they deserve.
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.
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. If you are extremely busy and it is a task you can delegate, go that route instead.
One of my mentors once told me that when you enter a patient’s room ask, “How may I help you 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.
These are a few tips I have picked up along my journey through nursing school. I know that in the years to come as a nurse, I will learn many more. Do you have any tips on developing a great bedside manner? Please share them.