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4 Simple Ways for Nurses to Improve Patient Satisfaction Scores
1. Who Are You Caring For?
Providing nursing care to patients is an intimate process. A process that many times includes removing all modesty and privacy of the patient to perform our very jobs. The irony is that this is the very thing that nurses try to protect and approach in a cautious manner due to the sensitivity of the situation. However, as a patient and a nurse I can assure you that no one has ever felt more vulnerable and at the complete mercy of others when placed completely naked (other than that paper-thin gown) and forced to wait on that cold, hard table awaiting for an ominous figure in the white coat. So, remember who you are providing care for other than that semi-naked person underneath the hospital-issued blue & white speckled gown.
Nurses are at a disadvantage when it comes to "knowing" our patients. We've already spent 10-15 packed minutes of your entire history, diagnoses, medications, previous hospitalizations and surgeries, family members, significant others, occupation, insurance status, social status, laboratory and diagnostic results with the previous nurse that cared for you. We're focused on our tasks at hand that include patient safety, pain medication, antibiotic administration, fluid and electrolyte balance, and the list goes on: Unfortunately, it doesn't allow the time for us to sit down and listen to find out about our patients on a personal level.
So, one small act a nurse can do is simply being interested in your patient; other than treating them as the sick person in a hospital gown. So, take just a minute out of your usual routine and ask your patient about their life. What do they do, or what did they retire from? Do they have children? What are they most proud of? It's likely you'll find something in common with your patients after a couple of simple questions and it will be amazing the sincerity that you'll receive in return.
2. Give 110%
It's reasonable to say that the typical nurse provides 105% of their effort on any given day. But rare opportunities arise when there is a lull in the day when the nurse has the option to decide between sitting down, taking a deep breath or providing a helping hand. I'm not telling nurses to avoid breaks or to not enjoy those rare moments, but if you see a visitor who looks like they're worn out and lost in the confusing matrix of the hospital, just offer yourself. A simple offer of a wheelchair ride to their car or assistance with directions will be greatly appreciated. One will be surprised how quickly word spreads about these compassionate staff members that take the extra minutes out of their day to help not only patients, but their loved ones as well. Patient satisfaction isn't always about satisfying the actual customer; it's providing genuine compassionate care to every person you meet.
3. Be on their Level
A simple rule that many fail to notice because they're simply too busy trying to keep up with day-to-day necessities of a healthcare job, is recognizing that the patient is an actual human being. Being able to look past the illness in a hospital gown and connecting with the human being underneath is the first step in providing excellent patient care. Remember when talking with patients to meet them at their eye level, listen before speaking, and try to take a "short walk in their shoes." Is this patient a 65 year-old lifelong farmer with a 3rd grade education that requires medical jargon to be broken down in simple, easy-to-understand terms? And does this same patient have macular degeneration that disables his vision; but he signs your consent papers anyway just because of your request? Basic knowledge of a patient's background will provide one with the ability to be an excellent patient advocate and prevents miscommunication that commonly occurs between medical providers and their patients.
4. Expect the Expected
Hospitals as well as the patient-admission process can be a mystery to outsiders and non-healthcare workers. Remember to always inform the patient and designated family members about what to expect: Especially concerning common delays that occur in the hospital environment, frequency of laboratory draws, vital signs, explaining the invasive nature of procedures, and to reassure them that they are receiving the best of care. Additionally, inform family members of common complications to expect for their ill family member. For example, if Grandma is admitted with a urinary tract infection, be sure to warn family members about confusion, agitation, forgetfulness and extra precautions needed to ensure her safety. Family members are never happy when they arrive at 7 in the morning the following day to find Grandma asking them why strangers were sleeping in her bed last night. Delirium is a very real complication for these elderly patients and nurses are so busy staying focused on labs, antibiotics, and safety measures, that we often forget to educate their family members. Therefore, every encounter with a patient or family member should involve some type of education: Educate them about their diagnosis, common side effects, medications, reviewed test results (especially if family members weren't present during physician/provider rounding), or a review of the patient's progress. When patients and families are involved in their care, expectations have already been exceeded.