5 Tricks For Developing Rapport With Patients

Feb 2017 NP Blog PostDeveloping rapport with patients can be tricky. As a nurse, you do not want to get too close that you break an organizational policy on professional boundaries. However, you do want to get close enough to the patient that they will listen to and trust you.

This is a perfect example of balancing the “art” with the “science” of nursing. A nurse must walk the fine line between developing rapport and maintaining boundaries.

Here are 5 Tricks For Developing Rapport With Patients:

  1. Look. When talking to a patient, do your best to get to their level. If you are standing up and the patient is sitting down in a chair, it feels as though you are talking down to them. Even if you are not. It presents a kind of hierarchy that is uncomfortable for the patient. I saw this recently when I watched a medical student (who was sitting in a chair) speak to a physician. The doctor looked as though she was lecturing her student. As much as you can, get down (or up) to the patient’s eye level.
  2. Ask. Never assume anything. Ask your patient about their preferences. I had the honor of interviewing a Nurse Practitioner, Nathan Levitt, about transgender health and nursing. Nathan described to me that we cannot assume anyone’s gender- just by looking at them. Just like we cannot assume that a patient knows about their medications or understands their illness symptoms. We must ask questions and…
  3. Listen. We must do twice as much listening as we do talking. And we can listen to so much more than just the responses that the patient gives. We can listen for non-verbal cues. Listen to what they are not saying. Listen as family members or friends interact with the patient during a visit. We listen to the lab values, monitors, and devices. But more importantly we must listen to our gut. It is true that there is a certain nursing instinct that can go a very long way in patient care.
  4. Feel. I have heard from patients who have experienced “robotic” nursing. This means that they felt that the nurse walked into the room, fiddled with the pump, did not talk to them, and then left. Patients often feel anxious and are scared to get negative results or news. We need to make them feel comfortable. That is part of our job. We also must be human beings at work- not automatic robots. Smile. Provide eye contact. Laugh, when appropriate.
  5. Relate. This one is probably one of the trickiest to perform. It goes back to keeping those professional boundaries. And at the same time, we do need to relate to our patients. It will help them open up. Ask them about their hobbies. Talk to them about what they liked to study in school. Find out what their favorite foods are. Relate human-to-human and you will experience a much more meaningful nurse-to-patient relationship.

What did we miss? How do you develop rapport with your patients? Be sure to Tweet me @ElizabethScala to let me know. Thanks for reading and feel free to share with a colleague!

Elizabeth Scala

Keynote speaker and bestselling author, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Nurse’s Week ‘Art of Nursing’ program, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and a playful pit bull.