Nurses are often at the forefront of patient interaction and have the greatest opportunities to make a lasting and positive impression on patients. Patient surveys, like the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey (HCAHPS), ask patients to rate the quality of hospital care they receive in areas such as pain management, nurse communication and staff responsiveness. Hospitals must earn high patient scores to receive full Medicare reimbursements.
Because of their frequent interactions, nurses are instrumental in ensuring patients have a pleasant experience. Here are five ways that nurses can improve patient satisfaction and survey scores.
1. Try Scripting You Interactions
Following a script can benefit patients and nurses both. In any profession, communication can be challenging. In nursing though, the diversity of patients’ cultural and social backgrounds increases the challenge. Emotions can also hinder communication. While the coursework in a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program prepares nurses for these circumstances, healthcare employers may also recommend scripting to help nurses handle stressful situations and angry patients.
Scripting can keep nurses focused while also easing patient anxiety. A common script involves nurses introducing themselves and explaining their credentials as well as treatments or procedures. Other scripts may address patient complaints or relay discharge information.
2. Consistency is Key
During the course of a medical encounter, patients may feel overwhelmed. They may be worrying about their health, the cost of care, or even who will take care of their children or pets during recovery. While it is next to impossible to eliminate all patient anxieties, consistency can minimize them and increase patient satisfaction.
While scripting provides consistency in communication, adhering to standardized protocols is important too. Over time, patients may grow accustomed to nurses handling their requests in a specific way. When a nurse deviates from standard protocol, it can cause the patient to question the nurse’s abilities or the quality of care they are receiving. Consistency in protocols can reassure patients that they are receiving the necessary and appropriate care.
3. Make it Personal
Nurses know to control their emotions and stay calm under pressure. However, this can come across as cold and detached, leading patients to feel devalued and less than satisfied with their care.
Small changes in body language can make a significant difference. When speaking to patients, avoid turning your back on them if at all possible. If you are using a portable workstation, position it so that you can see the patient and make intermittent eye contact. Getting down to eye level with the patient — by either kneeling or pulling up a chair to the bedside — can create a more meaningful and engaged interaction.
4. Consider the Patient’s Perspective
As nurses, it can be too easy to focus on the clinical side of things and forget how it feels to be the patient. Putting yourself in their shoes — even when dealing with difficult patients — can be extremely effective in diffusing or resolving the situation.
For example, many patients may grow upset with open-ended wait times. Interestingly though, a 2013 study found that 80 percent of patients would be less frustrated if someone would simply tell them the anticipated wait time. It stands to reason that patients may not be as upset about waiting as they are about the perceived disregard for their time. Nurses can prevent similar scenarios by approaching the situation from the patient’s perspective.
5. A Sincere Apology Goes a Long Way
When it comes down to it, most patients just want someone to listen to them and validate their feelings, so if a patient points out an issue, try not to take it personally or respond defensively. Regardless of who is at fault, apologize to the patient and take whatever steps to remedy the situation yourself or find someone who can. Nurses who demonstrate empathy and understanding during these times may find that their patients respond accordingly.
These are only five small ways nurses can drastically influence patient satisfaction. While patients’ perceptions of care have always been important, they are even more so now that they are linked to insurance reimbursement. Nurses play an integral role in upholding quality standards and ensuring patients receive the care they deserve.
Learn more about the UTA online RN to BSN program.
Hospital VBP Program Payment Adjustments. (n.d.). Medicare
McCormack, M. (2013). How to Treat Patient Wait-Time Woes. Software Advice
Survey of Patients’ Experiences (HCAHPS). (n.d.). Medicare