Therapeutic communication is one of the cornerstones of a nurse’s education. As part of the holistic approach to our care, we treat the patient, not the disease. This means we have to navigate through the murky and sometimes choppy waters of emotional support.
Most nurses understand and know how to use the basic concepts of therapeutic communication–it’s what separates our profession from most others, in my opinion. We have a unique bond on an emotional level with our patients that just cannot be described to a “non-nurse.”
I have a handful of tips that always “work” when I need to console a patient. And as a sidebar–“work” means I have lessened their discomfort (to any degree), or at least have given them the opportunity to feel just a tad bit safer during such a troubling time.
Here’s what I know works:
- Close the door, close the curtain and minimize as many distractions as possible. If you can let your coworkers know you need an uninterrupted moment with your patient, do so.
- Do not hover over them while they are sitting in bed. Sit next to them. Body position matters.
Voice tone and level
- Speak softly and maintain a consistent volume with your voice. Find a level halfway between a whisper and normal conversation. And whatever you do, don’t raise your voice.
- Either come prepared with a box of tissues, or find them in the room. Use the tissues as a compassionate suggestion of empathy and understanding. Whether they use the tissues or not is not the point.
- Let them talk. Let them express their feelings. Give them the time they need to process the information. It’s okay to sit in silence. In fact, it’s the best thing you can do–just sit and be present.
If all else fails, put yourself in the patient’s position. What would you want from your nurse? What wouldn’t you want from your nurse? If you can remember that this is about the patient and not you, you can’t go wrong
How do you console your patients?
For more Career Advice for Nurses pick up the latest issue of Scrubs magazine, available at a retail store near you!