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Excuse me, Nurse? Is your “bedside manner” lacking?

Image: John Foxx | Stockbyte | Getty Images

Developing a good bedside manner is just as important as improving clinical skills in expanding your role. Whether it’s dealing with the embarrassing medical complaint, the overly nervous teenager, the anxious new mother or the 30-year-old man who would rather be anywhere else but in the pharmacy, getting patients to open up, trust you and give you the information you need is vital for providing a high level of service.

Good interpersonal skills will help nurses – and their patients – get the most out of delicate services such as emergency contraception, chlamydia screening and erectile dysfunction advice. It will mean patients get exactly what they came in for, and it will keep them healthy – so here’s how you do it.

#1: Focus

You may feel you are needed in 20 different places at once, but it is vital patients get the attention they deserve. If someone comes in asking in a low whisper about hemorrhoids, you need to give them your full attention. That means avoiding simultaneously filling out forms or answering the phone. If necessary, ask them to wait five minutes while you can finish what you are doing so you have time to deal with their query properly.

#2: Really Listen

The teenage girl struggling to ask about the morning-after pill may just want information on contraception. The patient with poor asthma control may just want reassurance about her treatment. But by not listening properly, you may make the wrong assumption about the nature of their problem. The query may not be immediately apparent but instead hidden in a long description of symptoms, so listen first and then repeat back to check you have understood to establish exactly what the patient wants.

#3: Ensure Privacy

Nurses used to dealing with embarrassing medical problems on a daily basis can easily forget how uncomfortable it can be for the patient to talk about certain conditions. Offer a private consultation area if someone is asking for advice about a sensitive issue.

Use the patient as a guide – are they fidgeting, speaking very quietly or blushing? They may be asking about a condition you have never thought of as embarrassing, but they may find it very difficult to talk about. For example, some mothers are mortified to be asking about head lice.

On the other hand, some patients will shout out personal information at the top of their voices or start stripping off to show you a rash. Offering such patients privacy is still important in saving the blushes of other patients, though, and it will help you focus on the problem.

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