5 Ways to Prepare for a Tough Conversation With a Patient


In an era when digital communication has become the norm, it can be challenging as a temporary nursing staff member to have difficult face-to-face conversations with your patient. When a patient is noncompliant with their treatment plan or you have to deliver bad news, it’s safe to assume the conversation will be challenging. Here are five strategies you can use to increase the likelihood you and your patient will experience success.

Prepare Well

Preparation raises your self-confidence and helps you define compelling answers to your patient’s objections. Organize your key points, understanding your patient may need examples or more time to absorb what you’re saying. For instance, if you’re delivering bad news, recognize as soon as your patient hears a diagnosis that may be frightening, such as cancer, it’s likely going to be the last word they hear. So, your first conversation must be aimed at being honest, caring and empathetic, while giving your patient the time to absorb information.

Be Confident and Direct

Just as you appreciate when someone addresses an uncomfortable situation head-on, so does your patient. It may be more difficult as a temporary nursing staff member, but stumbling around the topic reduces the comfort level in the room. Your patient also appreciates your confidence. As you are confident in the recommendations being made, it increases the likelihood they will be followed.

Communicate Compassionately

Try to put yourself in your patient’s shoes as much as possible. Although you may be uncomfortable having this tough conversation, it’s likely they are also. When patients’ recognize your empathy and acceptance, it helps them feel less intimidated, ultimately benefiting their treatment plan. As your level of compassion rises, your patients have a greater desire to fulfill your expectations as they feel heard and understood.

Stay in Control

Difficult conversations are often triggered by situations when patients’ feel out of control. This perception may cause them to assert their independence in a way that negatively affects their healthcare. It is important you stay in control of your own feelings and give as much control back to the patient as possible. Work with your patient as a partner in their own healthcare, rather than dictating what needs to be done in order to become healthy. This increases their trust and their commitment to follow through on your recommendations.

Use Simple Ground Rules

During any difficult conversation, whether with a patient or a co-worker, when you follow simple ground rules it helps reduce the potential for the conversation to deteriorate. As much as possible, stay at the other person’s eye level and speak directly to them in a calm and matter-of-fact tone. Be as clear as possible, using specific words and examples. But, most importantly, never interrupt your patient while they’re speaking. This helps them to feel heard and understood.

Good communication skills help you to accurately and clearly inform your patient, giving them the knowledge they need to make decisions leading to improved health. These are life skills you aren’t born with and should not be overlooked, as they increase your success rate working with patients.

Contact Capital Today!

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