Building trust and rapport with patients is one of the most important aspects of a nurse’s role. Nurses who take the time to establish a positive relationship with patients (and their families or other caregivers) will gain a better understanding of the patient’s needs and emotions, enabling them to deliver the highest levels of care. In healthcare settings, the nurse often spends the most time with a patient, so these interactions will determine the patient’s overall experience of medical intervention.
Trust is at the core of the patient experience. If a patient does not trust the nurses who are caring for them, they are less likely to share information which could have a detrimental effect on the care they receive. A poor rapport between nurse and patient is also likely to negatively impact relationships with the patient’s support network, including family and friends. This can lead to complications and limitations — which may result in a lower standard of care.
Our health is our most valued asset. A patient must trust their nurses to act in their best interests as it could mean the difference between life and death for them. From introducing yourself and making eye contact to wearing the correct nursing scrubs — there are many ways a nurse can start to build trust with a patient from the moment they meet.
1. Introduce Yourself and Call the Patient by Their Name
Introducing yourself is the first step to building any relationship, and this is no different in a healthcare setting. An introduction may seem like an obvious thing to do, but in a busy healthcare setting, when you are subject to multiple demands, it’s easy to forget the simple steps you should take to ensure a high standard of patient care. As a nurse, you will be the patient’s first point of contact for all their queries, concerns, and calls for help. They need to feel that they know you and that they are receiving personalized care.
While it can be difficult to remember every patient’s name in a busy ward or clinic, an initial introduction is an important part of building rapport with your patients. Shake your patient’s hand and tell them your name. Ask them what they prefer to be called and make a note of this on their chart to ensure a consistent level of care when staff change. This will start to put the patient at ease and make them feel that they have someone to call upon if they need to do so.
2. Dress Professionally and Appropriately
You have your patient’s most prized possession in your hands — their health. It is vital that they see you as their advocate; someone professional who will act in their best interests. Nursing uniforms are important for maintaining safety and hygiene standards —but they also serve to build trust.
Nursing scrubs are a symbol of authority and expertise. Patients know that the person wearing a medical uniform has undergone extensive training and achieved a degree of experience, which makes them a reliable source of patient care. Ensure that you wear the correct uniform for the setting you are in and the procedures you are performing. Make sure your nursing scrubs are clean and well-maintained. A dirty or damaged nursing uniform will not create a professional and trustworthy image. It can be hard to keep scrubs in pristine condition in a busy healthcare setting, so always have a spare set ready to change into if necessary.
3. Show Your Patient That You Are Listening
It’s easy to zip around your patient’s bed, taking their blood pressure and writing on their chart while muttering the occasional “mmmm, yes” when they speak. Building trust with your patient is as much a part of the nurse’s role as performing medical duties and keeping records. When your patient is talking to you, make eye contact, and listen actively by asking follow up questions to find out more information. Pay attention to your body language — sit facing the patient and make it clear that they have your full attention.
4. Be Honest and Keep Your Word
Although it can be tempting to offer comfort to distressed patients by promising that everything will be okay, make sure that you act with honesty and integrity at all times. Both patients and their families appreciate honesty — even if what they hear is hard to accept. Avoid making false promises, and keep your word.
Following through on what you tell a patient you’ll do is a great way to earn their trust. Even the most simple acts can help a patient feel that they can rely on you. If you say you’ll bring a spare chair for a visitor, make sure you do so. If you have to go to another task but promise to return in half an hour, keep your word. If you know that you can’t guarantee this — perhaps you’re in a setting where it is likely you’ll be called away to an emergency — don’t make that promise!
Of course, unexpected demands often arise in a busy healthcare setting. If this happens, ask a colleague to speak with your patient and keep them updated on what is happening. Your patient needs to quickly learn that you are someone whom they can trust to do what they say they’ll do.
5. Show Respect for Your Patient at All Times
Be aware that your patient is likely to be feeling nervous and vulnerable when they spend time in a healthcare facility. As a nurse, it is vital that you help the patient to manage their experience with as little distress as possible. Showing respect for their privacy, well being, beliefs, and opinions will help the patient to feel cared for and at ease.
If you need to perform a medical procedure that requires the patient to be exposed in any way — whether that is due to removing clothing or talking openly about how they are feeling — make sure to offer them as much privacy as the setting allows. When explaining medical conditions, be aware that most patients will not be proficient in medical jargon. Take the time to talk through the patient’s situation in terms which are easy to understand but not patronizing. If they fail to understand at first, calmly explain differently until they do.
If your patient expresses a belief or opinion you do not share, or perhaps they refuse medical treatment on religious grounds, be respectful of their choices at all times.
Start Making Changes Today
A positive nurse-patient relationship is vital for ensuring a high standard of healthcare. Nurses meet patients at a time when they are feeling anxious, vulnerable, and often in a degree of pain or discomfort. The patient must trust that their nurses have the skills, knowledge, and expertise to care for them — but also that they have the honesty, empathy, and integrity to act in their best interests at all times. By taking the time to develop some of these behaviors as routine practice — introducing yourself, dressing professionally, being respectful, keeping your word and active listening — you will help to ensure the highest standards of care for your patients.
This post has been sponsored by Exposure Ninja
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