As nurses, the way we deal with our patients also affect the outcome of care that we provide. It is not enough that we know the theories behind the interventions we render. It is not enough either that we are knowledgeable and adept about a specific field of nursing care. Instead, we should learn how to establish rapport, trust and harmonious relationship with our patients. Through this, we will be able to put our profession in our hearts and not merely doing it for the sake of our salary.
Yes, we cannot deny that one of our goals is to earn money for various reasons, may it be for our family or for ourselves. However, this should not be the sole basis for us to do our best at work. We have to learn how to enjoy our profession by listening and learning from the stories of our patients.
Our patients tell stories about themselves once they feel that what they are going to say will remain confidential between you and him. Never expect him to disclose information at your first encounter. Would you expect someone to tell something about him to another person whom he has seen for the first time? Of course not. It would take time before you gain his trust which is our number one goal.
Things to do and to avoid in order to establish nurse-patient relationship:
- At your first encounter, you have to be aware of the interpersonal space. Observe a distance of 4 to 8 feet. Through this, your patient will not feel intimidated the first time you meet him.
- As you start a conversation, always talk to him at an eye level especially if you’re talking to a pediatric client. As you do this, you will let them feel that you are not superior to them.
- You also need to establish eye contact with your patient but not for a long period of time. Through this, you will be able to let them feel that you are sincere and you are interested to listen.
- You also need to avoid gestures that signal lack of interest. These include looking at your watch and yawning. These will surely affect your future interactions with them.
- Use open-ended questions to facilitate open communication.
- As you continue interacting with your patients, actively listen to his concerns. You may use different types of therapeutic communication – both verbal and nonverbal.
- The use of therapeutic touch also has its limitations. Do not overuse it because some patients may misinterpret this.
- Consider cultural differences before you use therapeutic communication technique.
- You also have to observe professional limitations and keep the professional code of ethics in mind.
However, though nurse-patient relationship is vital in improving outcome of care, workload and advancement in technology may also pose a threat in this aspect of nursing care.
Let us first discuss how workload affects the patient-nurse relationship. Imagine yourself caring for several patients during an 8 to 12-hour shift. You give medications, you monitor their vital signs, you process laboratory requests as ordered by the physician and you regulate the flow of intravenous fluids hooked to your patients. Do you think you still have enough time to interact with all of your patients? You have to allocate this 8 hours of duty in doing all the nursing interventions for your patients and in accomplishing all the documentations. In this sense, we may conclude that heavy workload really leads to a decline in the quality of nurse-patient interaction.
Aside from this scenario, as technology progresses, there are more advanced ways to monitor or communicate with our patients. For example, telemetry unit allows nurses to monitor their patients’ health through different devices such as electrocardiogram attached to their patients’ body. In this situation, the nurse does not need to interact with his clients. Telemetry nurses are required to communicate with their patients only through computers. Hence, this may also affect nurse and patient relationship.
As a nurse, we also need to understand the possible obstacles in establishing nurse-patient relationship. First is nonacceptance due to some nurses’ prejudices and cultural differences. They fail to understand diversity which affects the way they deal with their clients. Another thing is the patient’s resistance to interact. Some patients have this behavior which makes them uninterested to interact with their nurses due to some reasons. If you are not assertive enough, definitely, you will not have the chance to interact with them until they are discharged from the hospital.
Whatever the situation is, part of our responsibility as a nurse is to interact with our patients. You just have to know thyself, know the appropriate way to approach our patients and understand the different techniques to sustain a conversation.