10 Ways “Bedside Manners” Can Make You A Better Nurse

Bedside Manners for the Healthcare Pro a book written by Stephen Groner, who is a speech language pathologist.  So much of his career is helping his patients express their thoughts, their feelings, and regain their ability to swallow.  He used his vast knowledge and years of expertise with his patients on healthcare providers to help them improve their communication and bedside manners.  As I read the book, and Stephen walked us through the varying scenarios I couldn’t help but think, 1. How ingenious and spot on everything he is saying is, and 2.  How I can perfectly apply these strategies to my interactions with patients in the Emergency Department. So here are my 10 favorite strategies and ways I plan on utilizing them to improve my own bedside manners.

  1. “Tell them a bit about yourself,” seems like a pretty obvious thing to do, but as an ER nurse we so often walk into a room and head straight to the computer to chart or look up orders without actually taking the time to introduce ourselves.  So taking the time to say hi my name is Kirsten, I have been an ER nurse for about two years and I am going to be taking care of you today, can go along way in acknowledging the patient and beginning rapport.
  2. “Get on the same eye level,” do this as you are asking the patient about what brought them into the ER, what symptoms they are having, and what I can do as their nurse to help them.  Again helps to build trust with your patients.
  3. “Give your patient choices,”  I will provide my patients options, such as, “is there an arm you prefer for the IV start”, giving them this little bit of autonomy can give them back some control in a scary situation.
  4. “Narrate what you are going to do so your patient’s don’t have to guess,” so as I begin the IV start I will thoroughly explain what is going on, “you are going to feel a tight squeeze here from the tourniquet,  I am going to clean your arm with a little alcohol pad, you’re going to feel a big poke from the IV needle, okay needle is out, I am collecting your blood now, now I am flushing your IV with saline, this may cause you to experience a metal taste in your mouth, now I am going to secure your IV with a dressing.  All done!”
  5. “Treat your patient like they’re an expert too,”  meaning that although you may be an expert in medicine and healthcare the patient is an expert in themselves, they know if something is out of the norm for them or isn’t right.
  6. “Use gentle touch to convey warmth and real presence,”  I find this tool is most useful in reassuring patients or family.  lightly touching their arm or shoulder and letting them know they are being heard, and that we are going to do everything we can to get you feeling better.
  7. “Show you got the message by paraphrasing back what they just told you,”  this technique is simple and helps to show the patients you understand.  This is as easy as stating, “so just to confirm, you said your pain started Saturday night after eating dinner, it has been getting worse with intermittent nausea and vomiting?”  This allows for the patient to also add any corrections or additional details to ensure all of the pertinent information is being obtained.
  8. “Avoid blindly reassuring or problem solving before problem acknowledging,” this is probably one of the hardest things to do as a healthcare worker.  We so often want to fix problems and provide solutions before acknowledging the initial complaint.  So before jumping in and saying “you are going to be okay,” or stating “you’re going to be fine,” acknowledge that their concern and complaint is real and valid. This again goes a long way in showing that you are listening to the patient.
  9. “Putting negative feelings into words reduces their intensity,” for me I tend to use this one most commonly in addressing disgruntled patients.  Whether they are upset with a wait time, the care they received, or lack of answers, acknowledging their problems and stating, “you are right, it is really frustrating when you are in pain and have to wait in the lobby, I apologize for the wait time, and I am here to take care of you now, so tell me more about this pain.”  Additionally, I find this helpful with trauma patients that are overwhelmed and often confused about what is going on as dozens of people swarm around them.  I like to reassure the patient and say, “I know this is really scary, and it seems like a lot is going on right now, my name is Kirsten, I am going to be your nurse while you’re in the ED, if you have any questions at any time please let me know, you are in great hands and some of the best doctors are working on you to ensure you get better”.  This is way to incorporate many of the different techniques at once to provide excellent patient care.
  10. “Have your patients teach back to you what you told them to make sure it sticks.”  In the ED and much of healthcare a big part of our job is patient education.  So it is important that with the massive amount of discharge papers and instructions your patient will receive they know what is most important to know and where to find it.  I like to show this by reviewing the discharge instructions throughly with my patients, showing them what pages information can be found on, circling phone numbers they will need to call for follow-up appointments, and highlighting home care instructions.  Additionally, if the patient is being sent home with any medications or ortho devices I like to have the patient repeat the information and teach back either how to administer the medication or how to use/adjust the device.  Lastly, I like to make sure they know who they can call if they do forget anything and have questions so they don’t feel lost when they get home.

I have found this book incredibly useful in improving my own bedside manner and would recommend it to not only new healthcare providers but also experienced ones as well.  It taught me new strategies to improve my patient interactions and reenforced and expanded on others I already knew.  If you are interested in purchasing your own copy of Bedside Manners click the link here!
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One thought on “10 Ways “Bedside Manners” Can Make You A Better Nurse

  1. Love your site! I’m about to go back to school from a BS to get a BSN and I am loving the little things I am reading on your site. It reminds me why I want to be a nurse, there are so many opportunities to educate patients & empower them!


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