As today’s healthcare facilities are placing a greater emphasis on cultivating a patient-centered experience to drive positive patient satisfaction levels, more time and training is being spent on bedside manner. In fact, a review of 13 clinical trials determined that when more effort is placed on teaching good bedside manner, patients fared better in managing chronic diseases. In the past, many patients had low expectations about the interactions that they would have with their healthcare provider. Today, however, patients are more like typical consumers and expect more. The good news is that most healthcare professionals understand the role that bedside manner plays in the patient experience. For those that haven’t gotten that memo yet, it can be a learned skill just by practicing a few common sense techniques.
Let’s look at what traits are the most common in those who are considered to have a good bedside manner:
- Active Listening Skills. The single most important aspect of good bedside manner is taking the time to listen to your patient. Interacting with your patient using “Active Listening Skills”, will accomplish several things at once. It establishes a comfort level with your patient because they feel that you are taking the time to listen to them. Active listening also allows you to glean more information from the patient that may be helpful when you are collecting information for the physician. A patient that has been heard will feel like they are part of the process of getting better and have a more positive outlook on their situation.
- Non-Verbal Active Listening. At the same time that you are listening to your patient and engaging with them, your body language should be consistent with your verbal actions. Called “Non-verbal Active Listening,” these techniques solidify your patient-provider relationship. One of the key techniques is to maintain eye contact with your patient. Admittedly difficult to do while you are attending to various other things during the patient interaction, but making it a point to meet your patient's eyes as often as possible during the interaction is very important. Your facial expressions will also say more to your patient than your words. Smiling when you meet them and showing empathy when appropriate will “tell” your patient that you care. Another great technique for displaying genuine interest is to lean in towards them with an open posture as they speak to you.
- Communication. On the flip side of how to listen to your patient is understanding how to speak with them. Sure, it sounds very professional to rattle off “medicalese” that you spent years in college learning. While your patient may be impressed with your command of the jargon, they probably won’t understand a single word you are saying. Developing a trusting and comfortable relationship with your patient is a critical part of bedside manner, meaning that you should speak their language, not yours. As you listen to your patient, you will form a sense of what level of understanding they are at and tailor your language accordingly. Laymen’s terms and simple language go a long way in putting your patient at ease.
- Attention to Detail. Another trait that is associated with good bedside manner is paying attention to the details regarding your patient's comfort. In a hospital setting, take a moment to straighten up the bedside table, or ask your patient if they need any more ice. Even if you have other staff that would normally take care of those things, imagine how nice the patient will feel if you take the time to do it. Details like opening or closing the blinds for them or helping them with some other environmental factor (hot or cold) may seem tiny and barely worth your time, but these details mean mountains to that person who is tired, upset, worried about their future, etc. Another simple technique to demonstrate compassion and respect is human contact. Touching a patient's head or leg can be construed as condescending, but gently touching their hand or arm is just the opposite. This tiny gesture can be very impactful and leave a long lasting impression that you care about them.
Many people in the healthcare profession are naturally gifted at establishing relationships with their patients; others have to make a conscious effort to work at it. Some experts who teach bedside manner techniques, leave their students with a simple but powerful message: You will have the best bedside manner if you imagine that each patient you are caring for is your parent, child or family member. Not everyone can make that leap when considering the needs of their patient, but those that can will have an entirely different perspective on the human side of medicine. Join the bedside manner conversation by leaving us a comment below, or drop us a line on our Facebook page.