As a nurse, one of the best things that one can have as a skill is a good bedside manner. A bedside manner is defined by the dictionary as an “approach or attitude toward a patient”. If a nurse has a good bedside manner, they can make their patients feel at ease and comfortable working with them and getting the help they need. If a nurse has poor bedside manners, then their patients might feel uneasy and hopeless about working with them.

Unlike other skills one can learn in fields of higher education and from mentors and books, a good bedside manner is not something that a nurse necessarily walks into the hospital with. Instead, it is often something that develops over time, and one needs to work on it.

Good bedside manners are often the first step that will have nurses building a good relationship with their patient. It does not matter if they are a long-term patient who the nurse will be interacting with for the next several weeks, months, or even years, or if they are someone who will only be under the nurse’s care for a couple of days. Nurses need to ensure that they are providing the best care to them, and that will help them improve their relationship with their patients.

Here is how to cultivate a good bedside manner, and how to build an amazing relationship with patients no matter which field of nursing one is in:

Why does a positive bedside manner help? 

Before delving into how to build a positive bedside manner, it is important to understand why a positive bedside manner helps and what makes it so beneficial for the patient and the nurse. After all, a nurse might just decide that they should come into the patient’s room, run the tests and such that they need to run, and then leave. However, building a relationship with patients has some real benefits for both the nurse and the patient, and in some cases, it can be the difference between a successful recovery and more time in the hospital.

First, a positive bedside manner can make patients feel at ease. No matter what the scenario is or what the illness or ailment is that the patient might be facing, they are going to be scared, worried, frustrated, or simply just confused about what is going on with their bodies, and what the process is for them to get better. They likely have some serious questions about their health and the process of their recovery, and the nurse might be able to answer those questions.

Even if a nurse is not in a hospital setting, they are an authority, and patients will cling to that whenever they feel sick and need some support. So, nurses should not ever be afraid to answer the questions that patients are asking to the best of their ability.

Additionally, having a nurse come in and constantly check vitals, run tests, and administer medicine can be an uneasy experience for patients. However, if nurses get to know their patients and ensure that they know their names, and vice versa, and both get to chat as these procedures are going on, it can put everyone at ease. Additionally, seeing a friendly face walk in the door can do wonders for the patient.

Finally, having a good relationship with a patient can help a nurse become better at their job. Rather than having to simply walk into a room and run tests on a stranger, the nurse can talk to someone whose name they know, and that can be extremely helpful with both getting the medical procedures done and with communication. This is because if a patient knows who the nurse is and trusts them, they will start to open up about what they are feeling, how they are recovering, and if any changes have occurred in their health.

How does a nurse develop a good bedside manner? 

A bedside manner is helpful, but whenever it comes to having a good bedside manner, that is a skill one needs to learn all on their own. But how? Is there a way to develop a good bedside manner that does not involve testing the waters on several poor patients beforehand? Well, the first step is building rapport with the patient, and that starts as soon as the nurse first meets them.

Rapport can be built simply by saying hello to a patient when walking in and greeting them with a smile, and it is important to note how the patient responds. Sometimes they might smile and greet the nurse back, other times they might be more reserved, and sometimes they will start pulling the nurse into conversation and asking questions, or they might raise awareness of a problem they are having.

It is important to try to read the patients and match them where they are halfway. They might be the type of patient who likes to talk, or they might be scared, frustrated, or angry at the circumstances that have caused them to need a nurse in the first place. It is important not to judge the patient or meet any frustration or hostility they have with one’s own. Instead, the nurse simply needs to keep themselves pleasant and learn how the patient acts as a human.

A nurse will experience all types of different patients in their lifetime, with their own wants, needs, worries, and hobbies. The best way to build up a good bedside manner is to work with a lot of patients, and eventually, they will discover their own style of nursing that can be adapted for any patient that they end up getting.

Allow a patient to feel heard 

Sometimes being in a hospital situation or otherwise dealing with an illness or injury can leave a patient feeling powerless, especially if they are in a scenario where the doctors and nurses are too busy to help or to really listen to what the patient is saying or feeling. Simply acknowledging what a patient says and doing their best to meet their needs halfway, can make them feel like they still have some power. Even if one does not agree with what they want or their thoughts, they can still let them know that they are seen and heard. If a patient thinks that they are being listened to, they will be much more agreeable to treatment, and will likely open up more to the nurses.

Additionally, active listening can be another great way to ensure that patients feel listened to. Simply making eye contact, using body language, and showing some interest can be very helpful and will allow patients to continue talking. Nurses should not limit active listening skills to just medical topics, but also try to get patients to open up about some of their hobbies and interests, because they might find that they have a few things in common.

It can be nice to bookend all the medical work and test taking and hard conversations with something more lighthearted, such as talking about sports, or a TV show, or a favorite restaurant. Again, this can help the patient get to know the nurse better, it can help them feel better whenever they come into the room, and it can help them better interact and communicate their needs.

Focus on reflection 

As so many nurses are in a position of authority, many patients tend to ask them what they should do to improve their health. After all, nurses are equipped with far more medical knowledge and are the ones who are administering the cures for the patients. But a great nurse can build trust with a patient and can also work to inspire them at the same time by reflecting.

If a patient asks a nurse what they should do for something that is within the patient’s power to do, or a choice that the patient needs to make themselves, a nurse can respond with “what do you think you should do?” This will help the patient be accountable for their own actions and take their own health into their own hands, allowing them to come up with solutions that they feel comfortable with.

Of course, reflection does not work in every scenario. There are times when a patient truly does feel powerless and needs some help, and there are some occasions where nurses as medical professionals need to make a decision or find someone who can. But if a nurse can empower their patient and allow them to take their health into their own hands, then they will feel so much better about themselves and the path towards health. They might also be more receptive to taking control of their health when they leave the hospital.

Understand that every patient is different 

Much like relationships with people in real life, nurses need to understand that every single patient is different and will respond to different things and have different emotions about their situation. For example, some patients will want to talk and get all the support they can get in order to take control of their health, others have been fighting the same health problems for a long time and might just want to take the meds and get over it. Others might need some work before they really start to open up.

If nurses go in treating every patient the same, they will find that they will not get nearly as many results as if they treated every patient like a blank slate and worked to learn about them and treat them differently. A nurse should take time to get to know the patient and interact with them in a way that is beneficial. The patients are going to have to use that time to get to know the nurse as well.

Offer hope and trust 

The best way for a nurse to get a patient to trust them is to be trustworthy and give trust themselves, and one of the best ways to give trust is to provide hope. It does not matter what the patient is dealing with that is giving them a negative experience with their health, because even if it is the smallest thing, there are days when they are going to feel hopeless and powerless. Days where they wonder why medication and recovery and everything else they are doing is not working, and days where they wish their body would either heal or die.

The best thing a nurse can do is to provide hope and trust in these moments. They need to ensure that they are lifting the patients up and encouraging them to keep on fighting, and in these moments they will not just be taking on their physical health, but also their mental health. Nurses must be sure to do what they can in order to heal the patient’s psychological wellbeing as well as their physical health, often through conversation or even just taking their mind off things.

Be a friendly face. Talk about sports or a hobby for a while, break out a deck of cards and play a game, watch a TV show or some YouTube clips together, spend a lunch break eating with the patient. Do not be afraid to take off the nurse’s scrubs and just be a friend to the patient for a while, even just sitting with them and being another body in the room can be extremely helpful.

It can take a while for nurses to get used to offering hope to their patients, but once they do, they will be able to really improve the mood of all their patients. Plus, nurses can watch them go from hopeless to hopeful, which is rewarding when they finally do recover.

Learn to become a better nurse 

Nurses should increase their education and make sure that they can learn all the skills they need to be able to medically treat their patients. There are plenty of degrees that a nurse can attain in order to make themselves a better nurse and ensure that they are getting the support they need to help their patients overcome their problems.

One of these degrees that can really help them out is the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN), which can help nurses get their BSN and become a fully registered nurse. Now, if one is wondering how they can advance their career while also continuing to help their patients and have a dedicated job, they need to use one of several accelerated BSN online programs which allow them to get their degree in as few as 16 months.

Nurses can go to a place like Elmhurst University and ensure that they are enrolled in the best curriculum, that also respects how demanding their job as a nurse can be and also that they need their personal life. Elmhurst University understands all of that and will make sure that they get their ABSN as fast as they can, without the entire process sending them up the wall.

Do not be afraid to be therapeutic 

Every single patient and nurse are going to have some type of relationship until the patient leaves their service, and it might as well be a good one. A relationship built on trust, hope, and the knowledge that things are going to get better is one of the best types of relationships to have with a patient. That is going to help the patient feel better about their time in the hospital or under nurse care, and it will also encourage them to open up and ensure that they are communicating about their care and the needs they have.

Building a relationship in the world of medicine can be tough, especially if they have several patients to work through during a typical day. However, if they take their time to focus on getting to know their patients, they will find that their mental health will improve, they will enjoy their job more, and they will start to feel better about watching their patients fully recover and get better.

It can take some time to learn how to build a relationship with patients and it can take even more time to build rapport and a good bedside manner with every patient nurses work with. However, it is a skill that is well worth it at the end of the day, and once one masters it, they will find that the relationship between the nurse and the patient can be very beneficial for both parties.

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