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Traveling with Heart – How Travel Nurses Can Improve Patient Engagement

Pulse Clinical Alliance, LLC

Thousands of hospitals throughout the United States are staffed at least in part by traveling nurses. Because traveling nurses are so prevalent in the healthcare industry and play such a critical role in patient outcomes, it’s imperative that they use creative and compassionate means to engage the patients they treat. Whether a traveling nurse reports for a single shift assignment or a six-month contract, patient engagement should be a primary objective during their time in any facility. Implementing these strategies can ensure success in this arena.

Put the Patient on Center Stage

The desire to talk about oneself is human nature, innate and inherent. While it’s human nature for the caregiver to feel the same desire – to talk about oneself – traveling nurses should make a concerted effort to focus conversation with the patient on the patient. Providing opportunities for the patient to discuss their own rich history, their family dynamics, their chief complaint, their experience in this facility, and their immediate needs begins the rapport-building process between patient and nurse. Guided questions can help uncover the patient’s needs and wants and establish a relationship: 

  • “So what are you in for?” This light and funny question opens the discussion in a no-pressure way. 
  • “Tell me about yourself. I would love to get to know you better.”
  • “How do you like it here?”
  • “What can I do while I’m here to make you more comfortable?”
  • “Are you experiencing any pain or discomfort right now?”
  • “What are you hoping to achieve during your stay?”
  • “What do you like about this facility? What don’t you like?”

Listen with the Intent to Understand

While the questions above help to uncover needs, listening with the intent to understand is a critical component of establishing rapport. Sadly, people all over the world ask questions and then ignore the response, which damages the relationship rather than improving it. Think about the last time somebody asked, “How are you?” Did they respond to your answer? Did they appear authentically interested in how you were? Did they even allow you time to answer before walking away?

As the patient answers your questions, eliminate distractions and listen with the intent of understanding the patient better – their motives, their fears, their story. Avoid using the time they are speaking to draft up your response in your head; if you’re drafting a response you aren’t listening to the patient. Instead, listening thoroughly, pause to formulate your response, and respond in a way that keeps the focus on the patient. 

Establish a Partnership

Establish a partnership with the patient to distribute responsibility for healing and rehabilitation and build trust. Much like the relationship between the charge nurse and the staff nurse, the nurse and the patient must work together and fulfill their responsibilities in order for the patient to have a successful hospital stay.

Establishing a partnership sounds complicated but it’s really the result of a few simple exchanges. A partnership exists when: 

  1. Decisions are made together. Options are offered to the patient and recommendations can be shared if desired, but the patient should be allowed to make independent decisions and take responsibility for the outcome in many cases (what to wear, what to eat, which activities to attend, when to wake, when to sleep, etc.).
  2. Both parties have a role in the recovery of the patient. For example, the nurse can take responsibility for administering treatments and medications on time, but the patient must take responsibility for completing their daily breathing exercises when the nurse is not in the room in order for recovery to be successful. Both should trust the other to uphold their end of the bargain.
  3. They share a common goal. The nurse and the patient want the same outcome: a healthy recovery or improved quality of life for the patient, for example. The more often the nurse can remind the patient that they are on the same team – that the patient’s goals are her goals – the more responsibility the patient will take for their role in the partnership.

As a partnership is successfully built, patient engagement increases and patient outcomes improve.

Foster Motivation

Children believe everything they hear, especially if the source is someone “smart” like a parent or teacher. Adults, though, don’t learn like that. Adults believe what they see and know to be true, and they require significantly more evidence to jump on the bandwagon. 

Therefore, patients who are told to complete their PT three times a day are less likely to do it than those who are told that not completing PT exercises as often as prescribed results in the development of scar tissue and muscular atrophy in 43% of patients according to a reputable study conducted in 2016. Educate patients using data that is meaningful to them and always answering the question, “Why?” even before being asked. 

Traveling nurses play a special role in patient recovery; by providing support for other clinicians who may be fatigued by recent changes and long shifts, and by bringing a different set of experiences and culture. By making patient engagement a priority they can use their limited time in each facility to positively impact the lives of those they treat.

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Pulse Clinical Alliance, LLC

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