15 Bedside Manner Techniques to Improve Patient Experience
September 3, 2019
Bedside manner is an important topic among medical professionals and patients. Dealing with disgruntled patients isn’t easy, but neither is dealing with disgruntled doctors.
Developing great bedside manner is important for healthcare professionals because they need their patients to trust them. Doctors with good bedside manner have a better rapport with their patients and provide better care. In addition, patients who feel more comfortable with the overseeing Physician and caregiver are much more likely to follow their recommended treatment plan.
Unfortunately, many people have experienced bad bedside manner, but there is a push among healthcare professionals to offer better care and have a more genuine attitude towards patients. The type of bedside manner that patients receive in the past will also heavily influence their belief on the bedside manner they will receive in the future. To combat this, an industry-wide initiative has started where healthcare facilities and organizations are doing all they can to ensure that their healthcare professionals are practicing good bedside manner techniques. This involves making sure that their healthcare professionals are aware of what good bedside manner techniques exist, what benefits can be gained from practicing good bedside manners, why bedside manner is important, and what they can improve upon individually.
Bedside manner is increasingly playing a role in whether or not a patient elects to go back to the healthcare facility in the future to receive future treatment. In an industry that is growing increasingly competitive, hospitals and healthcare facilities can no longer allow bad bedside manner to take place. Healthcare facilities and hospitals are doing all they can to ensure that their staff understands what bad bedside manner is, and what they can do to stay away from it.
For those unsure of what constitutes as “bad bedside manner”, it can include acting unengaged, too busy, insincere, distracted, mad, mean, or anything that detracts from an otherwise overall positive patient experience. Bad bedside manner can drastically shape a patient’s experience while they are receiving care, which is why we’ve taken the time to outline some of the key reasons as to why bedside manner is important.
Why Bedside Manner Is Important
Bedside manner is one of the most important things about the healthcare industry. It describes the interactions that patients and healthcare professionals have. Positive and negative bedside manner can frequently impact a patient’s ability to become healthy over a period of time and will impact the outcomes of the treatment plan. In addition, healthcare professionals who engage in good bedside manner can improve team and employee morale. Because the healthcare industry is such a collaborative environment, healthcare professionals will notice right away if their patient is enjoying their time or if they’re miserable because of something their co-workers did in the past. Having a patient who is enjoying their stay will boost team morale and allow healthcare professionals to enjoy their job a little bit more and boost their job satisfaction.
In addition, there are several fantastic benefits to providing good bedside manner. We’ve outlined some of the best benefits when a healthcare organization emphasizes and practices good bedside manner techniques.
Improve Patient Outcomes
The first benefit of good bedside manner techniques is that it helps to improve patient outcomes. Healthcare organizations and hospitals are doing all they can to improve patient outcomes. Sometimes this can mean implementing some new form of technology that can make care more efficient, or utilize some new research that helps speed up the recovery time with a new care technique. But one of the best things about having a good bedside manner is that sometimes all it takes to spruce up a patient’s treatment outcome is the kind of care and attitude they receive from those healthcare professionals overseeing and interact with them.
Often times patients can feel overwhelmed when they’re going through they’ve recently been diagnosed or are going through their treatment plan. Sometimes they can feel like they’re facing a tall mountain to climb and they’re doing it alone. A positive attitude or word of encouragement from a healthcare professional who is displaying a good bedside manner can be all the difference it takes to help increase the likelihood that they’ll come out of their slump and get back to a healthy lifestyle in no time.
Reduce a Patient’s Stress Level
As we mentioned earlier, a patient’s stress level can be crucial to whether or not they follow their treatment guidelines or how successful a treatment plan will be. Sometimes patients can develop stress from their recent healthcare condition, illness, or the feeling of their lack of support as they go through care. Over time this stress can mount and they begin to feel down about their health outlook, and then their care potential begins to suffer.
Good bedside manner can drastically reduce a patient’s stress level and help them feel more comfortable as they’re going through this difficult time. A patient who is more comfortable with their immediate caregivers eventually become more comfortable in their surroundings, which can then help them have a positive experience.
Foster a Positive Patient Experience
Let’s face it, nobody wants to go to the hospital or healthcare facility. This means that they’re already in a bad mood when they’re faced with the prospect of having to go to the hospital or healthcare facility. In addition, patients are often forced to seek care in unfamiliar locations, interact with individuals they don’t know, receive treatment from new techniques they’re unfamiliar with, and more. Compound that feeling with how they’re physically feeling due to their ailment or sickness, and it’s clear to see that they’re not having a positive experience from the start.
A positive bedside manner can help drastically improve the patient experience by helping them feel more comfortable, and at east with their surroundings.
Build Patient Trust and Promote Healing
Another fantastic benefit to a good bedside manner is improved patient trust. As we mentioned earlier, patients don’t always interact with the overseeing physicians or care professionals, and they often have a little hesitation when they’re trying to take advice or guidance from someone they’re unfamiliar with. Good bedside manner can help improve patient trust when it seems like the caregiver actually cares about the outcome of their care. As we mentioned earlier, patients can often feel like they’re dealing with everything alone, but it doesn’t have to seem like that.
A good bedside manner is all it takes to help a patient feel more comfortable with their caregiver and develop that trust and rapport that can prove to be instrumental in their treatment.
Create a Fulfilling and Rewarding Career
The next benefit that can be gained from having a good bedside manner is a rewarding and fulfilling career. Healthcare professionals who find that they get along more easily with their patients also tend to enjoy their careers more than those who don’t value their patients. The healthcare industry demands a lot from their healthcare professionals, and for those healthcare professionals who aren’t as passionate about their career, those expectations might overwhelm them.
For those healthcare professionals who truly do enjoy interacting with their patients, they’ll find that providing a positive bedside manner comes naturally to them. They’ll naturally interact with their patients and find it easy to help them feel comfortable in their treatment, trust in their caregivers, and more. Healthcare professionals who often provide the best bedside manner will receive more favorable reviews, work harder than their peers, and find success throughout their career as they’re granted additional opportunities to advance in their career.
We, here at HospitalCareers.com, want to help. That’s why we’ve made a list of the best things you can do to improve your bedside manner.
15 Bedside Manner Techniques:
The first step to solving any problem is admitting that there is one. It might be an unthinkable subject, but there are healthcare professionals that don’t treat their patients very well. We want to believe that the people taking care of us will always be super nice to us or give us their full attention — but that isn’t always the case.
Sometimes being mean is understandable; hard days, terrible patients, and having tons of stuff to do is stressful and tough to handle. But medical workers should try to keep their personal feelings and problems out of their interactions with patients and stay subjective while being nice.
1. Focus on the Patient
It’s important to give every patient your full attention. When there are other cases weighing heavy on a person’s mind, it is hard to focus on other things. But health professionals have to give every patient the same level of care and attention.
The right body language is important to staying focus. Don’t be distracted or upset around patients. It shows weakness and you can’t afford to show weakness as a caretaker. That will make them lose trust and perhaps withhold important information. If you act fidgety or are speeding through the process it can make your patient feel that you don’t care and that they are a number. This also hurts your reputation.
If you focus on the patient you can treat them like a person and not just a number. Viewing patients as more than a number helps in diagnosing and curating treatment plans. If you see them as people, it could prevent overmedicating and stop faulty treatment plans. Don’t run a doctor’s office like a patient mill. Instead of churning out tons of numbers, give each patient quality care and take enough time with each case.
2. Don’t Argue
One of the best ways to deal with people who love to argue is to agree with them. It stops them in their tracks. Agree with what they have to say, but know you’re right and test your theories. This isn’t to say patients are completely wrong, but you should never indulge them in an argument.
Everyone is a self-diagnosing physician thanks to WebMD, which is a real pain for real doctors. Now, more patients argue because they think they are right about their illness and what WebMD told them. It can be easy to argue with someone who is convinced that they have every disease in the book, but just agree with them and take seriously the symptoms they do have.
Patients seek out doctors because they want to know what they really have, and they want to be wrong about having cancer or something crazy. So, run tests, talk to them, and gauge their symptoms, but never engage them in an argument.
3. Listen Intently
Listen to your patients; don’t just wait for them to stop talking. Many healthcare professionals already have a diagnosis in their head before they fully hear what their patients have to say. A patient knows how they feel, so listen for anomalies or inconsistencies, even if they aren’t totally right.
If you truly listen, you can find clues to issues you might not have thought about. It also helps your patient trust you. People love when they are taken seriously and when they have someone’s absolute attention.
Sometimes people dance around their symptoms so that they can have a variety of things checked because they are too embarrassed to talk about what actually concerns them. So listen to what they are trying to say and take them seriously.
4. Be Empathetic
As a healthcare professional, it’s important to care for your patients and empathize with their circumstances. Sincere empathy can overcome many obstacles as it requires you to see the other person’s point-of-view. Although it is difficult to realize everyone’s needs, it’s far from impossible, and most people’s needs are easily met. By looking at the world from the viewpoint of others, the odds of success in the case and the happiness of the patient increases exponentially.
Remember, when a patient comes into the doctor’s office, they are not at their best. They’re likely ill or in some type of distress and, in worst case scenarios, facing down their own mortality. It’s too easy for patients to become mere room numbers to us, especially at the end of a long shift. Just remember to show them compassion and realize their needs. Sometimes just showing a little compassion can have a big influence on how a person feels.
5. Be Detailed
Always give the best possible care. Even if a patient is a pain, you can’t give them horrible care. If you have a bad patient, just make it through the appointment and try to treat them well. If they are too bad you can recommend them to someone else. But it is your job as a healthcare professional to maintain control and a level head.
Be as detailed with your worst patients as you are with your best ones. Check all the boxes and make sure your search is complete before you make any assumptions or start doling out meds.
Be thorough in your approach to treatment. Make sure you cover all the bases and that you didn’t overlook any possibilities. Sometimes it is easier to have a fast turnover and basically mark patients off of a checklist, but try to give everyone the best, most thorough care possible. Take your time with each patient and don’t send them on their way after three minutes if they’ve been waiting for you for hours. There is really nothing worse.
6. Don’t Judge
I don’t believe that the majority of healthcare professionals judge their patients, but some probably do. They are humans like everyone else, and because of that, there can be mistakes made. There could be water-cooler talks where they laugh over certain cases and make jokes about people. But, we will say it’s not common. But really, try not to judge people, especially to their face. When you make assumptions based on people’s circumstances or what you think, it can blind you from what is really going on.
But, we all judge people. It’s human nature. If you are going to judge people, though, don’t judge them to their face. People don’t like being told how to live their lives or what they are doing wrong, so if they need to live better or change something, tell them in a non-judgy, empathetic way.
When you make assumptions based on people’s circumstances or what you think of them, it can blind you from what is really going on and prevent you from giving them the best care. It’s best to maintain subjectivity and put all personal factors aside– except any information that could benefit their diagnosis or treatment. Plus, it hurts rapport when a patient feels self-conscience over how their doctor made them feel.
7. Ensure Privacy
This one is not such a big issue because healthcare professionals are bound by HIPAA and other codes of conduct that ensure doctor-patient confidentiality. But with all the social media profiles and online outlets to vent, it can be easy for healthcare professionals to forget and blast out people’s info online– even if it’s talking about what happened with a patient or something.
It is still against the law and confidentiality agreements to talk about cases on Facebook, even if you think nobody is listening. The best practice is to keep all professional matters off of social media and let them stay between you and your patient.
It’s not easy to talk to people about certain ailments or embarrassing afflictions. So, if the one person who can help (a doctor or nurse) abuses that trust, it can be hard for patients to get help when they really need it. Just keep cases to yourself and don’t make the patient’s illness the office joke.
8. Be Observant
You can tell a lot about a patient by their demeanor and body language. Knowing certain body cues will help you tailor your sessions appropriately. Some people look at the floor if they are nervous, others get blotchy if they are stressed or anxious. Certain patients talk very quietly because they have something embarrassing to talk about.
See how your patient is acting. Check out their body language and mind their tone. If they are timid or nervous, you can help ease their tensions by talking affirmatively and staying positive. Being able to read your patients can help you give them the best care and help relieve their insecurities or fears. Increasing your tone can help others speak up. Additionally, acting relaxed and informal can help relieve tensions, while nodding a lot can make patients feel better about their situations.
9. Validate Patient Concerns
Even if they are wrong, patients like to feel right about concerns and symptoms. Sometimes just proving your patient is okay is all they want. Make your patients feel like you take them seriously by listening to what they say. Listening and validating your patients will definitely improve your bedside manner. If your patient feels that there is something wrong with their stomach or heart, then run the tests. It is important to ease concerns by checking out what they are worried about so they can have full transparency on their health.
Explore all possibilities before ruling anything out, because there could be something more serious than indigestion at hand, and if you rule out more serious illnesses, you could miss something and endanger your patient. Just communicate effectively with your patients and give them more than 30 seconds to talk about their issues. Sometimes all a patient needs is someone to listen to them and give them a professional opinion.
10. Be Nice
Like many other professions, working in the medical field requires dealing with people. This is often the most difficult part of the job, but it is just as important as it is challenging. Some patients are easy to please while others are outright rude. No matter how a patient may act, they are only human, just like doctors and nurses.
The best thing you can do to improve your bedside manner is to simply be nice. Like in all things, being nice goes a long way. If someone meets you with a frown, greet them with a smile. It might be cliché and a little cheesy, but a smile is contagious. Plus, it’s nice to see people smile– especially if they are taking care of us. Patients don’t want to feel like a burden, so if a health professional makes the environment light and happy, that can go a long way in making the patient feel better.
11. Ask Additional Questions
One of the best ways that you can improve your bedside manner is by being using the inquisitive technique of constantly asking questions with patients and their family members. As a healthcare professional, you’ve already been trained to observe patients and be inquisitive about what they might be feeling, what they’re concerned about, and help answer any outstanding questions they might have without asking. Often times a patient will refuse to ask questions because they’re not certain what the etiquette might be, they don’t want to seem ignorant, or they don’t want to make healthcare professionals feel like they’re going out of their way when they’re already doing so much.
As a healthcare professional, you should use your inquisitive nature to ask the patient some additional questions when you think they have something they’d like to say or ask but haven’t done so. For instance, when you’re talking about some complex care topics and the patient might nod along as if they understand, it always helps to ask the patient if they’d like some additional clarification or if they understand what you’re saying. A patient’s body language will often let you know whether or not you need to ask additional questions and ensure that they’re comfortable with everything they’re being told or going through.
12. Be Aware of Your Own Body Language
The next thing that healthcare professionals can do to improve their bedside manner techniques are to be aware of their own body language. As healthcare professionals, it’s difficult to think about what kind of signals you’re sending with your body language when you’re communicating with patients verbally, but it’s important to try and pay attention. You might be saying that you’re really concerned about a patient and you’re worried about what they’re going through, but don’t realize that your arms are crossed, you look disinterested, and you are sending off the message that the patient is just another one in a gigantic list of individuals seeking care.
You don’t want to send the message that you don’t value what they are going through or that you’re disinterested in how they are feeling. Instead, take the time to make sure you’re sitting with them and that you’re maintaining eye contact. Nod along and showcase active listening skills when a patient is speaking to you instead of fiddling with things on your clipboard or worrying about hooking something up.
When you’re talking and interacting with patients, it’s important to showcase that their opinion and their communication matters to you. You don’t want to send off the message that you’re above them and you need to be revered in some way. They’re a normal person just like you, and they’re going to need your expertise. Take the time to empathize with their situation, and make sure that your body language isn’t sending the wrong message. Being aware of your body language is something that might take a little bit of time, but once you’ve got the hang of it it will come to you like second nature when you’re interacting with patients.
13. Stay Away From Technology
The next technique you can use to improve your bedside manner is to try and stay away from technology and digital screens when you’re interacting with your patients. We might not realize it at the time, but we’re ignoring significant communication interactions and face-time with the individuals we’re communicating with when we’re so focused on the technology or digital screens we need to perform our jobs.
In the healthcare industry, using technology is another aspect of the job. There are always new tools to use that can help to monitor patients, keep track of a host of analytics that will track a patient’s progress, order things at a moment’s notice, and more. The problem with all of these fascinating tools and technologies is that they can also distract us from the most important thing: face-to-face interactions and meaningful conversations. Even if you’ve got a lot of things on your plate, as most healthcare professionals do, it’s important to make sure that you’re showcasing that the technology or digital screens aren’t a distraction to you.
Like we mentioned above when it comes to interacting with your patients and boosting your bedside manner, your non-verbal communication is important. Even though technology has vastly improved the rate at which you can care for a host of patients, and the effectiveness of interacting with them — sometimes it can get in the way of meaningful interactions and true connections.
Healthcare professionals need to make sure that they’re not distracting themselves with technology when they’re supposed to be answering questions from a patient or interacting with them. We’re all guilty of it, and it just takes some practice to ensure that you’re doing all that you can to prevent technology from impacting your social interactions with patients.
14. Be Courteous
The next technique healthcare professionals can use in their bedside manner to improve patient experience is to always be courteous. All healthcare professionals know that there are going to be trying days where a patient or their family member can really test your buttons. There are going to be days where no matter what you say or do, a patient is never satisfied and they seem like they’re always rude to you. These things are going to happen and it’s important to remember that you need to be courteous, even when all of your efforts seem in vain.
It’s important to remember that a patient can be rude or impatient for a number of reasons, and often times they don’t realize that they’re taking that stress out on you. In other cases, a patient might lash out because they’re not receiving the care they believe they should or they don’t like one form of communication over another. Instead, look at these challenges as a way to go above and beyond and improve your interactions with that patient. Take the time to reach out to see what’s bugging them, what communication methods they prefer, and what you can do to ensure positive interactions moving forward.
Patients will often like things done a certain way, and asking them what they prefer or how they’d like things to be done is a courteous way of respecting their wishes. Patients notice those kinds of things and will appreciate the extra work you’ve put in to make sure they’re comfortable and happy with their level of care.
15. Follow Up With The Patient
Another fantastic bedside manner technique you can implement to improve a patient’s experience is to follow up with them after their treatment. Often times we often forget about patients when they leave our care or move on to another wing or facility. Over time you’ve developed a relationship with that patient, even if it’s a small one. By reaching out to patients after they’ve left your care to check in with them and see how they’re doing is a great way to showcase that you truly were invested in their health and that you cared deeply about their treatment outcome.
This will go a long way in building their trust in future scenarios where they need care, and they’ll also appreciate the effort it took for you to take some time to see how they were doing. In an industry that is concerned about patient retention numbers, following up with patients is a great way to ensure that they feel valued and seek that value when they need care moving forward.
When patients go to a hospital or clinic they want to be treated with respect and receive the best care. It’s important that physicians and other healthcare professionals treat patients well and have a great bedside manner. How you act and treat people can impact your practice and either help or hurt your reputation.
Be sure to stay focused, don’t argue, be sincere and show empathy, observe, validate, be detailed, don’t judge, and listen. If all else fails, just remember to be nice. Being nice goes a long way and can do more for your patients and your reputation than most other tactics.
The more you adopt and act on these tips, the better your patient relationships, and work-life, will grow.