10 Bedside Manner Techniques to Improve Patient Experience

In Career Advice
February 2, 2016

bedside manner - 10 Bedside Manner Techniques to Improve Patient Experience

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.

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.

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 overall positive patient experience.

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.

10 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.


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.

Advance your career. Change your life. - HospitalCareers