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In healthcare today, we're more focused than ever on enhancing the overall patient experience. Not only is it the right thing to do (think about what you'd want for yourself or your loved ones), it's actually one of the measures that factors into the Value-based Purchasing financial model of reimbursement.
A group of my colleagues and I recently brainstormed about issues that can either improve the patient experience or make it less than optimal. One area that should be an easy win is how we set the stage for each other's success. But then, some very preventable communication gaffes can get in the way. The words we choose and the body language we use can foster a long-lasting impression.
Consider an example of setting the stage with positive intent: "Sally will take care of you after my shift is over. She's a really great nurse." Or, "I see you're being transferred to 3 West-that's an excellent unit." Contrast that approach with, "You couldn't sleep because the unit was noisy? That's the night shift. You're not the first to complain." Or, along the same lines, "You don't like the food here? Well, I don't blame you. No one does."
The last two scenarios represent misguided attempts at being empathetic with a distinctly negative twist. A far more constructive response might be, "I'll share your concern about the noise with the nurse manager. I'm not sure what happened on the unit last night, but I do know the staff would be sorry to learn that you couldn't sleep." In the second case, "I'm sorry to hear you don't like the food. I'll contact the dietitian to work with you to improve that situation."
It's all too easy to throw a person, unit, discipline, or department under the proverbial bus when things don't go as planned. However, nothing good can ever come from disparaging remarks. Teamwork breaks down and a bitter taste remains.
But what if the situation really is so bad that you don't feel you can set the stage for success? Then do the best you can to right the wrongs and remember the sage words of our kindergarten teachers: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
Until next time-
Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM
Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2012 Vice President: Emergency and Trauma Services Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.
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