5 Ways to Improve Your Bedside Manner

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Nursing is rewarding, but challenging work. Not only do you have to master the skills of your specific area of practice and keep up with the latest research (of which there is always a ton!), but you have to have some pretty strong interpersonal skills, which include your bedside manner, to boot.

With the environment in many of today’s medical facilities being fast-paced and demanding, it can be difficult to engage your patients with the limited amount of time you have. However, improving your bedside manner is a critical part of making your patients feel comfortable and providing them with a high level of care

5 Ways to Improve Your Bedside Manner

Follow the five simple suggestions below for improving your bedside manner. You’ll be amazed at how simple they are and how naturally they fit into your daily routine.

  • Introduce Yourself

Don’t assume that your patients will know what your role is and what your specific responsibilities are regarding their care. Depending on where you work and what your patient’s health issues are, your patient could be seeing a variety of medical professionals in a given day and it can be difficult to remember who’s who.

By introducing yourself and explaining why you are there, you help patients remember who you are and make them feel more comfortable with you.

Not sure how to pronounce their name? Don’t be shy – just ask!

  • Address Your Patients by Name


Taking the little bit of extra time and care to address each of your patients by their name, rather than using a generic “Sir” or “Miss” (or worse, not addressing them at all), is probably the easiest and most effective thing you can do to make your patients feel like an individual instead of a number. It shows them that you see them and care about their specific needs and concerns – and it’s the first step to developing a trusting relationship with your patients.  

  • Give Your Undivided Attention/Don’t Multi-Task

As much as possible, give your patients your complete attention. This means not filling out forms or refilling supplies while you are “listening” to them. Even if you are able to multi-task and do something else while listening to a patient (FYI – most people can’t truly listen when doing something else), it will give the patient the impression that you aren’t really listening to them – and that you don’t care.

If a patient begins telling you about something personal or sensitive while you’re in the middle of a task that you can’t put down, it’s better to ask the patient to wait a few minutes until you finish what you’re doing. Let them know that you want to be able to give them your undivided attention.

  • Ask Open-Ended Questions


If you’re not used to asking open-ended questions, you will be pleasantly surprised by how much more information you’re able to get from patients just by doing this. Instead of asking “Do you feel ok?”, say “Tell me how you are feeling.” Many patients will simply answer the first with an unhelpful “yes” or no”, whereas the second encourages a patient to explain how they are really feeling, to talk about what’s bothering them and what they’re struggling with.

When a patient can provide detailed answers to your questions, it will help you gain a better understanding of their needs and how you can help them. After listening to their answers, always be sure to repeat back what they’ve told you to ensure you have understood what they’ve said.

However, there are always patients that will provide too much detail and can talk all day, if permitted. In these cases, be prepared to kindly get them back on topic and wrap up the conversation in a timely manner.

  • Pay Attention to Body Language

During any communication, whether with your friends, family members, colleagues or patients, paying attention to a person’s body language is key in identifying how a person is feeling and gaining more information.

If a patient is looking at the floor or fidgeting while they’re talking to you, there’s a good chance they’re uncomfortable with what’s being discussed. Use these signals as an opportunity to build rapport with your patient – noticing their body language will enable you to be more tuned into how they are feeling and you’ll be able to get more out of the conversation in a gentle, noninvasive way.

Also be aware of your body language, as it can either make a patient open up or shut down. Avoid crossing your arms and fidgeting, and always make sure to make eye contact to show that you are listening.

Once you begin practicing the above steps to improve your bedside manner, you’ll notice that your patients will be more comfortable with you and, as a result, more willing to confide in you. Not only will this make your job easier, but it will make your patients happier. A win-win in our books!

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