BY SCRUBS EDITOR
When you meet a new patient, you’ll need to introduce yourself. But for many nurses, this is easier said than done. If you’re not exactly a social butterfly, meeting new people can be challenging. But the way you introduce yourself is important for patient relations, and you need to make a good impression to help the patient feel comfortable and at ease.
Your introduction forms the basis of your patient-provider relationship. Not only are your words and tone of voice important, but your body language also plays an important role. It’s estimated in the textbook “Communication and Nursing” that about 85% of communication between nurses and patients is primarily nonverbal. A lack of communication comes across as unprofessional, and it can make the patient feel uncomfortable. Being friendly, upbeat, and empathetic is essential when interacting with patients.
What’s the Best Way to Introduce Yourself?
A great introduction can be described by the “five P’s”:
- You need to know who the patient is.
- Understand where people fall in a hierarchy, and how it’s appropriate to address them.
- Develop a consistent introduction to use.
- Be sure to say the patient’s name clearly and correctly.
- Introducing a point of commonality can go a long way toward forging a good connection with someone.
Here are some tips for a great personal introduction.
- Make eye contact and shake their hand. Making eye contact and shaking their hand helps you come across as friendly and personable.
- Address them by an honorific. Address your patients as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” “Miss,” and other polite honorifics, unless they specifically ask you to address them by their first name.
- Make sure nonverbal communication is positive. Your facial expressions, body posture, and degree of eye contact send out social signals. Sit or stand in a position where you’re close to being eye to eye with the patient. Lean slightly toward them, and avoid crossing your arms or legs.
- Use the right tone of voice. Make sure your tone comes across as interested, polite, and empathetic. Speak clearly, at a pace that is neither too fast nor too slow, and avoid using too much jargon.
- Explain why you’re there. It’s helpful for the patient to understand why you’re seeing them. For example, “I’ve come to measure your blood pressure today.” If you’re performing any type of procedure, make sure the patient fully understands what you’re doing, and that they consent to it.
- Ask the patient if they have any questions. Patients are sometimes hesitant to actively ask questions or bring up their concerns. Inviting them to do so can encourage them to open up, which may provide you with medically relevant information.
- Ask if they need anything else. Before you leave, ask the patient if there’s anything else they need from you. Again, they may be hesitant to bring it up on their own.
- Thank them, and explain what will happen next. Saying “thank you” is only polite. You should also explain what’s going to happen next — for example, whether the doctor will see them momentarily, or if you’re going to come back again later.
How Not to Introduce Yourself
We’ve discussed the best ways to introduce yourself to a patient, but many nurses make mistakes that can damage their therapeutic relationship with their patients. Here are some of the most common introduction missteps.
- Not introducing yourself by name. It’s surprising how often doctors and nurses neglect to give a patient, their name. When you fail to introduce yourself, the patient may feel alienated.
- Coming across as cold and aloof. A warm, welcoming demeanor is a big part of good bedside manner. If you come across as uninterested or annoyed, it makes patients uncomfortable.
- Ignoring the patient or not listening to them. It’s important to be a good listener. Some patients may seem to go on and on about things that don’t matter, but it’s polite to listen and nod your head anyway. Patients also voice concerns about things like pain or discomfort. It’s important not to write off these complaints.
- Not explaining what you’re doing. Patients can benefit from understanding what you’re doing when you visit them. Whether you’re administering a medication or examining their vital signs, it’s alienating and uncomfortable when they aren’t told what’s going on.
A Great Introduction Can Make a Patient’s Day
When you introduce yourself to a new patient, a warm greeting, and friendly demeanor can make a big difference for them. Whether they’re in a hospital bed or they’re seeing their GP for an annual check-up, patients can benefit when staff members are friendly and responsive.