Speaking For Yourself
Sometimes, it seems like healthcare professionals are forced into a corner, and we find ourselves “towing the line” and speaking to patients and clients in a way that feels prescribed rather than genuine. Some facilities are even asking us to speak to patients with special “scripts” that are meant to improve nurse-patient communication. Generally, speaking from the heart is your best bet when it comes to engendering positive nurse-patient interactions.
Have you ever been asked by your employer to use a predetermined “script” in your patient interactions? Does your facility have communication guidelines that are supposed to help you communicate more effectively with patients? Do you chafe at being told how to talk you patients and what words or catch-phrases to use?
Nurse-patient relationships are special, and as the caregivers who are at the bedside more than anyone else, nurses need to feel that they are empowered to speak frankly and openly with patients, using their own clinical and communication skills to say what needs to be said.
At some facilities, corporate consultants (even the Disney company, believe it or not!) are crafting scripts for healthcare workers to use when talking with patients and families. While it may be easy for a ticket seller at Disneyland to say the same thing to every customer who comes through the door, it’s another thing to mandate how a nurse should interact with a patient or client who is sick, vulnerable, frightened, and in need of support that is genuine and specific to their individual situation.
As a nurse, you have basic communication skills, and you also may have advanced skills learned on your own or through formal study of communication techniques. These are important skills to develop and strengthen throughout your career.
You may also have a very strongly developed intuition that guides you to know when it’s the right time to say what you need to say, and when you need to use a different tactic to comfort, inform or educate a patient and their family members and loved ones. Trusting your gut is important, and knowing what to say and how to say it is a skill worth honing.
Mandated scripts for nurse-patient interaction may be an interesting idea, but using your own common sense is an even better idea. If your facility uses such scripts, use them judiciously, and make sure that you change them sufficiently so that they are personalized and specific to each patient and situation.
After all, you’re the nurse, and the use of your compassionate communication skills is an essential aspect of the care you provide every day.
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