This article is the first in a two-part series that provides expert nursing tips to help you be the best nurse your patients ever had.
Did you know that there is one piece of advice you can follow that will automatically make you the best nurse your patients ever had? It has nothing to do with your skill level. It’s not even that hard to do. Yet, it’s rarely practiced. What is this trick of the trade? Treat patients like they are human, always. Every time. Without exception.
I know that you are already rolling your eyes and assuring yourself that you already do this on a daily basis with all of your patients. Maybe you do, but there are a lot of things we as nurses often and easily overlook.
As the saying goes, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. I am going to review some of the actions you can take while you work as a nurse that will make you the apple in the eye of all your patients.
Acknowledge Your Patient Every Single Time You Enter the Room
I know you are thinking that you do this already. That when you go in for your assessment or to pass meds, you always address the patient first (or at least should). But let me share with you some common scenarios I have witnessed that lack this step.
Oftentimes, nurses team up together or a nurse works with an aid to get work done. I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed two nurses walk into a patients’ room to quickly collect I&O, for example. As this is a mundane quick task, people often enter the room, collect data, and leave without ever speaking to the patient. Many times they are caught up talking to each other, often about drama workplace. They clear the pump, empty the foley, read off some numbers and leave the room.
How can you perform this simple task as the best nurse your patient has ever had? First off, when you walk into the room, greet your patient and ask them how they are doing. Sometimes I notice nurses avoid asking this type of question when they are busy in fear that the patient will need something that might tie up their time. The truth is, when you proactively ask your patients about their needs, they are less likely to hit that call button every few minutes.
You know what I&O collection is and it’s a simple task that you complete all the time. But your patient may not be fully aware. When they see you bend down beside the bed to empty a foley, they often don’t know what you’re doing until you stand up with a cylinder full of urine. So explain to your patient that you are going to take a shift count of their intake and output. When you get the results, tell them how they are doing. For example, “Wow, looking at all this urine output for the shift definitely shows us the Lasix is working! That’s great.” If you are collecting any samples to send off to the lab, tell them that you are performing this test and when they can expect the results.
In addition to satisfying the basic need to feel human, this also makes the patient feel like they are more involved or even a partner in their care.
Completing Shift Report at Bedside
I will definitely say that hospitals and healthcare facilities are doing a much better job of implementing policies that force nurses to perform shift change at the bedside. However, how sad is that this type of thing needs to be a policy?
Your patients are literally bombarded all day long with strange people coming in and out of their room. Half of the time, they don’t even know who these people are or what they are doing. As the patient’s nurse, you are there to offer a sense of advocacy and comfort during their stay. How many times have you seen the patient’s board with the nurse’s name on it that has not been updated in one or more shifts?
It’s so important that you always introduce yourself to your patients right away at the beginning of a shift. Let them know that you are going to be there for them for the next however many hours that you are scheduled to work. Likewise, when you leave for the day, let them know that you are going and someone else will be coming in. Even more importantly, if you get moved to another unit or leave half-way through a shift, go let your patients know why you are leaving early, and that they have someone else who is going to be there for them.
Let’s review some common scenarios I have seen on hospital floors. One thing I have witnessed more times than I can count is nurses who try to go around policies that make them report at the bedside, by reporting to each other right at the patient’s doorway without involving the patient.
Another situation I frequently witnessed was two nurses entering the room of the patient as they are already discussing the patient before they go in. They walk in and continue the report in front of the patient, without fully including the patient in on the conversation or stopping to acknowledge them. Just picture that scene from Patch Adams where the doctors and students are making rounds and talking about the patient at her bedside without even addressing her by name or asking how she is doing. Just talking to each other going from one bed to the next.
How can this be done differently? I always gave my patients a heads up about an hour before I left letting them know someone else was coming in. When the next nurse came for the day, I would insist that we walked into the room together, and I would always include the patient in on the conversation as I gave updates and discussed progress and would ask them to chime in on key points. If I was coming in for the day, I would always start by entering the patient’s room, writing my name on the board, letting them know how long I was going to be with them that day, and asking if there was anything they needed. As simple as this is, you would be shocked how often it’s missed.
Accepting Praise for Your Work From Patients
I am not the most knowledgeable nurse that’s ever worked. I google symptoms if I don’t have an answer. I forget things sometimes. I am late with medications or assessments during busy shifts. Despite all this, I can not tell you how many patients have told me that I was the best nurse they ever had. Honestly, I heard this type of comment typically once per shift. It made me feel sad because I knew the things the patient was referring to were just basic considerations that should be given to all patients at all times.