So you walk into your patients room to give a breathing treatment, and you are going to have to stay in that room for at least ten minutes. You know nothing about the patient, and the patient knows nothing about you. In other words, you are complete strangers. So what can you do to break the ice, per se, and get that person to like you?
1. Turn it off at the door. Whatever is ailing you, put it away. If you're irate with your boss, put it away. If you're irate you have to go into the room because of a stupid doctor order, put it away. You must go into the room with a blank slate. You must put your patient before yourself, and the only way to do this is to put away what ails you.
2. Knock: Make the person aware that you are entering his space. Ask permission to come in. I like to say, "Hi, is anyone home?" I often get some chuckles about that, and it seems to work pretty well for me. A simple "hello" will work just fine.
3. Introduce yourself: Hi, I am Rick Frea (use your name here, not mine), and I am your respiratory therapist. This makes you no longer a stranger. Introduce yourself to anyone in the room who may not know you. You may have to introduce yourself every time you walk into the room, because the patient may not remember you. Or, there may be family members in the room who have not met you yet, and to them you are a stranger until they know your name.
4. Explain why you are there: "I am here to give you a breathing treatment." If there are people in the room who haven't met you yet, say something like, "Hi, I'm Rick Frea (of course you'll use your name), I'm just here to give (patient name) his morning peace pipe.
There, now you both have something in common. But you are not done. The patient still has no clue what a breathing treatment is, and he's thinking, "This is awkward." Yet it's your job to get the patient to relax and open up to you.
To do this you cast a spell on them by asking a few simple questions, and then you listen to key things they say and ask questions about those things. This is how people like Jay Leno and Matt Lauer get people to talk, and this is how they come up with follow up questions.
5. Put away your ego and lift up theirs: Put down your shoulders, and put on your genuine smile. Step toward the patient to show them that they are the important person in the room.
6. Look in the eyes of your patient: This is key. You must get down to the level of your patient, and look into the patient's eyes. This shows that you are confident and can be trusted. If the patient is lying in bed, pull up a chair and sit eye level with the patient. If the patient is in a wheelchair, kneel down so you can look into the patient's eyes.
7. Heed the power of a gentle touch. Shake hands with the patient. Touch your lady patient's on the shoulder, or hand. This is a good way of showing the patient you mean them no harm. It's a good way of letting them know you are gentle, kind and human. It let's them know you are casual, and easy going. It breaks down the barriers that stand between you and your patient, and let's him know you are just another good person.
8. Ask questions and feed off the keys: Are you short of breath? Have you ever had a breathing treatment before? The patient says, "Yes, I was short of breath a few years ago?" Okay, so when? Why? What happened? Did it change you in any way? In this way you are showing your respect for the person's opinions and personality. You are allowing the person to be the center of attention.
9. Look around the room for cues to help you come up with conversation: Is there a Bible in the room? Hey, I see you read the Bible. I like to ask something like this: "Hey, if you had to recommend any verse in the Bible to a non believer, what would it be?" Or, "What's your favorite chapter of the Bible?" Or maybe there's a picture in the room. "So who is this in the picture?" People love to talk about their children, grand children and things that interest them. Ask questions, and feed off
10. Respect your patient: Continue to focus on your patient. Assess your patient. Talk to your patient. Question your patient. Do not stand in the room, pacing and acting like you're bored. Sit down and make yourself at home. If you're comfortable, your patient will be comfortable. After all, he is in an awkward place among strange people getting strange things done to his body. So you're job is to make yourself comforting and easy going. Answer any questions he has. Ask him questions. Focus on him until you leave the room. And, of utmost importance, do not sit in the room and chart. If there is anything that makes you distant to the patient is when you are focused on a chart. Instead, focus on your patient.
11. It's okay to talk about you. After you get to know your patient, and have allowed him every opportunity to talk about himself, it's okay to talk about yourself. But, do not over due it. You must remember your job is to make the patient feel good about himself. However, as appropriate, and as invited, you can share your kid stories, or share your experiences with life. I find that my short of breath patients love it when I share that I have asthma. Sharing an asthma story or two shows them I can be vulnerable too. It helps makes me genuine. It often gives the patient a feeling of "Wow! You feel that way too!" or "Wow, that happens to me too!" I always find those to be neat moments. Sometimes they invite me to tell my story, and sometimes they ask me about my wife and kids. Still, you must always find opportunities to return the conversation toward your patient. Keep in mind that he is the focus, not you. However, by talking about yourself, you are becoming a friend of the patient. He is learning to trust you as he would trust a friend.
12. Do not one-up your patient. Everyone likes to tell stories, and most of us have a natural tendency to tell a better story. At all costs, try to avoid doing this. One upping people can be offensive at times, and that's not what you want to do. Let your patient tell a story, and ask him questions about it. Keep him talking. Keep the focus on him. Let this be HIS TIME. Let him be in the limelight for a change.
13. Do not try to win: Similar to upping a patient, another thing that irritates people is when you tell them their opinion is wrong. When a patient shares his opinion, be it religious or political, allow him to share this opinion without trying to win the political war. If you disagree, don't let the patient know this. Do not become competition for your patient. In a way, you will want to try to lose. Compliment the person's opinion. Say things like, "That sounds cool!", or "That's interesting." Actually, I had an art teacher once who said that the best thing to say when you don't like a painting and don't want to offend the painter, is "That's interesting!" So if you ever hear me saying that, you now know why.
14. Thank the person: Even though the patient has caused you to work, you should always say "Thank you." You should try to say this every time you are about to leave the room.
15. Keep the door open: Ask the patient if she needs anything, and if so get it. If the patient wants a nurse, go talk to the nurse. Let the patient know that any time she needs you she can call you. "Let us know if there is anything you need." Or, "Let your nurse know if you are feeling short of breath, and she can hunt me down. Do not sit there feeling uncomfortable. If you need me, let your nurse know and she'll get a hold of me." I find this works especially with pleasant patients who feel they are a bother.
16. Leave with a bang: You should close by saying something like, "Nice to meat you," or "It was a great conversation we had," or "I really enjoyed talking with you." Yet when you do this, do it with a gentle touch (remember, a touch is powerful). Shake the hands of male patients, and tough the hand of female patients. Or touch their shoulders. Or, just shake hands. Either way, touch the patient some way (if appropriate and as appropriate). Then, just before you leave the room, look into the person's eyes and smile (or fake a smile). If there are more than one set of eyes, you should try to look into all of them for a brief moment. Then smile just before you part.
16. Follow through: If you talk to the nurse for the patient, return to the room to let the patient know what you did. If you said you were getting a cup of ice water, get a cup of ice water. If you cannot follow through because of an emergency, or you get busy, go back to the room later and explain. This keeps you on the good graces of your patient, and lets them know you can be trusted. It also makes the hospital look good.
17. Watch out for the patient and visitors: Even when the patient is not on your schedule, pay attention to the patient. If he's sitting in a waiting room for a long time, explain to him the reason. If you see a person wandering the halls, lead him to his destination. If you see your patient looks uncomfortable, ask him if there's anything you can do to help. It's always a good idea to check on your patient, as this shows her that you are a reliable friend. Also, don't forget about the other patient in the room. This is especially important if the patient in bed one is very sick and requires the services of many healthcare providers. Take a peek at the person in the other bed and pay attention to her needs too. You should also explain what is happening with her room mate too, as this will help allay her mind.
18. Respect other workers who require the patient: Of course in the hospital setting, things don't always go as planned. Lab techs, x-ray techs, nurses, family members, friends, and doctors often times rush into the room and demand the attention of the patient. In these cases, you get pushed aside. These things will happen, and you must respect that.
19. Be genuine. Be yourself. Don't be a fake stiff. Be genuinely interested in the other person. Don't just say you agree when you don't. Obviously some of the steps above won't be easy, and may be impossible given the setting. If you're uncomfortable touching people, it's okay to skip that step.
20. Be careful with apathy and burnout. While this isn't necessarily a post about apathy and burnout, it can greatly impact the way you come across to your patient. As best you can, go back to step number one and "turn it off at the door." I'm actually making this the first and last step here because I think it's that important. To be likable, you have to give 100 percent of yourself to your patient. I understand burnout can make it hard to care, and hard to smile, and hard to be interested in your patient. But it's your job as a professional to shut it off at the door and key in on your patient.
I always love it when I leave a room, stand by the door so no one can see me, and listen to the patient talking to family, or another patient. I love it when I hear things like, "What a nice guy." Those are moments you know you did a good job of getting the patient to like you.
Another way of knowing you did a good job is when the patient remembers you, and asks for you the next time he's admitted. Or, the patient seeks you out at Walmart. The funny thing about this, though, is we usually don't recognize the patient dressed in normal clothes.
Note: While most of the above are ideas of my own, I did get some ideas from Jeff Haden's article "6 Habits of Remarkably Likable People."