We spend 12 hours a day (or more!) with our patients, so we are the ones they look to when they are scared, uncomfortable, nervous, anxious, or all of the above. That means we have to do what we can to gain our patients’ trust. Sometimes it’s easier said than done to spend extra time with our patients, but I try to prioritize it into my day. Having their trust often makes your day go smoother, so it is also beneficial for you to make that connection as their nurse; the best of both worlds! I came up with 5 tips for us as nurses (or any type of healthcare professional!) to use as a guide to help make that connection. I listed them as 5 different tips, but they often go hand-in-hand with one another!
Try to Connect With Them
TALK TO THEM. They are human too. Ask them about their family, their friends, their hobbies, and what makes them happy. I try my hardest to learn about my patients, and not just about what brought them to the hospital. I’ve had patients and their families tell me that the effort I put into simply talking to them made them feel more comfortable in such a vulnerable time of their lives.
Patience is A Virtue
BE PATIENT AND PRESENT. This next one goes together with #1, and I am going to give a personal example (without giving away any patient identifiers) to help me explain it. A good majority of our ICU patients are intubated, which unfortunately takes away their ability to speak (if the tube is inserted correctly!). I had this one patient that was trying to tell me something by mouthing the words, but I was really struggling to figure out what he was trying to tell me. He was also getting very frustrated with himself. I took my time with him, and I was eventually able to understand him. This happened numerous times throughout my shift. Later that day when I extubated him, the first thing he said to me was “I can’t say thank you enough for taking your time with me today. You’re the only nurse that sat next to me and did that. It means a lot.”
Honesty is the Best Policy
Be honest with them. I would be lying if I said that I’ve never responded to a patient’s question with “I don’t know.” If I were the patient, I wouldn’t want my nurse to make up an answer in efforts to make herself sound smarter. I would want the truth! Which is why I follow up my I don’t know” with “I will look through the chart, and if I’m still unsure, I’ll have the doctor come speak with you.” No shame!! Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know. Communication is key.
Educate Your Patients
Talk everything through while you do it (in terms they will understand); AKA EDUCATE! If we don’t tell our patients what they should/shouldn’t be doing, how do we expect them to stay out of the hospital? I work in an area of Boston where many of our patients don’t have a home/food to be discharged to, insurance, or medical knowledge to better themselves. While educating them on their medications/diagnosis/etc, keep in mind the resources they are going to be discharged to. They are not all the same; they don’t all come from the same background.
Visitors Are a Great Support System
Let their family/friends be in the room (if you can do so)! There are certainly times in the ICU where visitors should step out, or patients are restricted to a limited number of visitors at a time. BUT if you can, let them in. bring in extra chairs next to their bed. Being in a hospital is scary stuff and being alone in a hospital is even scarier. If the patient requires limited visitors at a time, explain why! They will appreciate your honesty, but they will also appreciate the fact that you are taking the patient’s health and situation seriously.