Health care professionals who build rapport and trust with patients and the people they serve deliver better care. A strong, positive connection results in an improved experience and more patient input that leads to better decision-making. Here are some quick tips.
Listen to understand and assess.
We all want to be listened to. Try repeating back in your own words part of what you’ve heard the patient say. Ask about their symptoms and how they’re feeling. Listen in a way that lets you assess how they’re doing and build your understanding of what’s important to them. Make eye contact.
Unless you learn otherwise, always assume patients have no medical training. Be prepared to explain things more than once, if needed. Explain to patients with a tone and with words that would appeal to you. Check their facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. You can often see or hear if they have any confusion, frustration, or another unexpressed concern. Talk clearly and stop often to ask if they have any questions. If there is an issue, never put the responsibility on the other party. Rather than saying something like, “You don’t understand” try something like, “I don’t think I explained that well. Let me try again.”
Validate their concerns.
Don’t dismiss any concern. Make their concerns yours. You don’t have to agree with them or tell them what to think. Use your words to express back to them what you think they are concerned about. Validating their feelings increases the chance you can learn more. The more you know the better you can adapt care and lessen or remove concerns.
For example, people with dementia will frequently say things like, “I want to go home!” Don’t say, “You can’t go home” or “This is your home” or similar non-affirming statements. Acknowledge what they’re saying and try to get more information. You might say, “Going home is really important to you, isn’t it?” or “How could I make a change here that would make this place feel just a tad more like home?” This type of validating answer shows the patient you respect them and how they feel.
Do what you say you will do.
When you say you will do something and then do it you build trust. We trust people whose word we can rely on. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be honest about when you’ll be back with pain medicine or how long they have to stay in bed or when the doctor will arrive.
Talk to the person, not just the patient.
Patients can become consumed by health issues. Talking about something else can relieve stress and improve their frame of mind. Acknowledge they’re much more than just your patient. Ask about their work, hobbies, family, or home town. People enjoy talking about their lives. No one wants to be known as the knee replacement in room 138.
Health and healthcare, in general, involve uncertainty and risk. Patients feel vulnerable. They depend on the competence and actions of healthcare professionals. Building trust can improve the perception of care, aid in the diagnosis, gain greater acceptance of and adherence to recommended treatment, decrease patient anxiety, and more.