When you attend nursing school, you will have a lot to learn. Classes, such as chemistry, anatomy and pharmacology will likely be part of your curriculum. Once you start clinical rotations, your focus will be on learning how to complete a thorough assessment and performing procedures, such as inserting a nasal gastric tube and starting an intravenous line. Although you have a lot of clinical information to learn, you should not neglect developing strong interpersonal skills and a good bedside manner. What constitutes a good bedside manner? Individuals working in the medical field get very busy, and it can be easy to rush through interactions with patients with little or no communication. For example, a nurse may be caring for several patients at one time and not really listen to the questions a patient has. Bedside manner is the way a healthcare professional, such as a nurse, communicates and interacts with patients. If you are trying to figure out what constitutes a good bedside manner, think about how you want to be treated by a medical professional. There are several components, which play a part in developing a good bedside manner including the following: Compassion Patients need to be treated with compassion. Treating patients with compassion includes speaking to them in a kind manner and being patient and understanding. Compassion conveys a caring and empathetic attitude. Honesty It is important to always be honest with patients, but that does not mean being blunt or rude. As a nursing student, you will not be giving patients bad news or informing them of their prognosis. But if patients ask about symptoms or how a disease typically progresses, you do not want to lie to protect them from worry. Patients have the right to know the truth about their health. Respect Respect is conveyed in what you say and how you say it. Always be polite and courteous to your patients. Everyone wants to be treated with respect. Remember to introduce yourself and explain what you are there to do. Patients have several people coming in and out of their room all day, and it is easy to mix people up. Clear and concise communication Don’t expect patients to understand medical language or the terminology you use on a day to day basis. Use language patients will understand. Be clear when explaining procedures or treatments. Ask patients if they understand what you will be doing. One reason people may have fear when they are in the hospital is because of the unknown. Understanding more about their condition and what is involved will take some of the fear out of the situation. Pay full attention If you are thinking about your next task or rushing through your interaction with your patients, they will sense it. It can be difficult to give someone your full attention when you are busy, but it is essential that you try. Why bedside manner matters As a nursing student, it is important to work on your bedside manner from the start for a few reasons. Displaying a good bedside manner as a student may help both patients and staff have confidence in your ability. In addition, establishing strong interpersonal skills early in your nursing career will help you develop habits, which will stay with you throughout your career. When you have a positive bedside manner, both you and your patients benefit. For example, patients often feel more at ease with a nurse or nursing student who communicates effectively. Good interpersonal skills will help patients feel they can trust you and your judgment. Patients who feel they are being treated respectfully, often have an increase in satisfaction. It is becoming increasingly common for patients to fill out satisfaction surveys after they are discharged from the hospital. Good satisfaction scores are important to hospitals for several reasons including insurance reimbursement and public image. Also, research has indicated patients who are satisfied with their nurses and doctors may adhere to their treatment plan better than those who are unhappy with their care providers. Tips for success Although some nurses may have an easier time developing a good bedside manner than others, everyone can work on their skills. Consider some of the suggestions below to develop rapport with your patients. Make eye contact Have you ever talked to someone and they would not look you in the eye? Not only can that lead to distrust, but it can make it difficult to connect with someone. Be empathetic Sometimes patients need to vent about their illness. Although you are not a counselor, lending an empathetic ear for a few minutes can go a long way. Don’t be judgmental You may not make the same choices a patient makes, but you are there to care for their medical condition, not judge them. For instance, you may have a patient who is addicted to drugs. But your job as a nurse is to provide the best possible care regardless of why the patient is in their situation. Listen Often people are busy talking and they forget that listening is also part of good communication. Listen to your patients. It is human nature to want to know you have been heard. Patients should have the opportunity to ask about their care and explain how they are feeling. Avoid interrupting Everyone does it occasionally, but interrupting is impolite. Wait until your patient is done speaking before you answer a question or make your point. When you interrupt someone, it prevents you from really listening to what they have to say. Stay focused It can be easy to get distracted when you have several things to do at the same time. But staying focused on the patient you are with at the moment is necessary in order to provide good care. Keep in mind, being a patient in the hospital is never fun. Treating your patients with a good bedside manner may make the experience a bit easier and less frightening. Eye-opening hospital work experience International hospital shadowing for school and university students Find out more You might also be interested in ... What is patient-centered care?