1. Maffeo, Comdr. Richard RN, MSN


Improve your "people skills" with this practical mnemonic.


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Good nursing blends the mastery of technical skills with human compassion. What holds it all together is your ability to communicate clearly with patients and their families. Use the following PRAISE mnemonic to become a great communicator.

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Person your patient can contact with questions. When you meet a patient for the first time, clearly introduce yourself as the nurse who'll be caring for her for the next 8 (or 12) hours. Confused by all the caregivers slipping in and out of the room, she and her family may wonder whom to turn to for information. Assure them that you welcome their questions. The patient and her family should also know how to contact the nurse-manager or the hospital's patient representative if they have questions that you can't answer. Your nurse-manager or hospital patient representative can give you their business cards for that purpose.


Resource material. Most of us retain only a little of what we hear, and patients are no different. Giving them printed material reinforces your oral instruction and lets them review new information at leisure. When deciding on the type of written material to use, remember that 23 million Americans are functionally illiterate. Provide material that's easy to read and understand-preferably material written at the fifth-grade reading level. If your patient has poor vision, make sure she has her reading glasses or provide large-print material. If she doesn't speak or read English well, provide material in her primary language. Work with your nurse-manager to have appropriate patient-education materials at hand.


Assume nothing. Even if your patient is a health care professional, don't assume she fully understands her illness and treatment plan. The stress of hospitalization and illness may interfere with her ability to process information as easily as she could from the other side of the bed. Even patients who've lived with chronic conditions for a long time and know much about their diagnosis and treatment will appreciate the time you take to explain their condition and the reason for tests and treatments. Assuming patients know everything about their care can lead to misunderstandings.


Initiate communication. The health care system intimidates many patients into silence, so don't wait for your patient to ask questions about her care. A simple, "Do you have any questions about your care?" can go a long way to easing her anxiety. By asking, "Is there something I can do to make your stay more comfortable?" you assure her that you're interested in how she feels and aren't too busy to meet her needs.


Stress is normal for your patients and families, so take its effects into account when you teach. You'll need to review your instructions several times during their stay. Provide information in increments. If possible, incorporate your instruction with routine patient care. For example, if you need to teach your patient about stoma care, do so while helping with her bed-bath routine. Document what you taught and her response to your instruction.


Explain everything. Tell your patient why she needs an intravenous line, nasogastric tube, or urinary catheter. If a procedure might be uncomfortable, prepare her ahead of time.


By putting these simple communication tips into practice, you can send your patient home singing the praises of her nursing care.