Many things have changed in healthcare, but patient expectations regarding their nursing care has not. Technology provides a vast amount of accessible information, which has contributed to conditioning our society to expect immediate gratification and may provide unrealistic, confusing or inaccurate healthcare information. These misconceptions could affect the patient’s trust and compliance with their healthcare providers.
Unexpected staffing challenges can result in nurses working with less staff or for longer hours. Extensive required paperwork can place additional demands on the nurse’s available time. These, and other challenges, can result in nurses struggling to find the time they want to devote to their patients and patients perceiving that nurses are too busy for their care. Encouraging clear communication can assist in aligning patient expectations with actual experience, nurturing trust, and might help reduce overall nurse and patient frustration.
Perception is Reality
Leaders play a key role in improving patient satisfaction, which often correlates with improved staff satisfaction. They can help set the tone for patient communications by clarifying expectations of staff in advance and modeling desired behaviors.
Prioritizing clear communication that offers choices, allows patients to be involved in their care decisions and personalized treatment, which can assist in influencing the patient’s overall experience with your organization. Implementing effective communication practices can provide the patient with a sense of empowerment at a time when they may feel at a loss of control.
One of the goals in providing nursing care is meeting the patient’s expectations. When the nurse feels unable to meet them, it can result in additional stress and can influence overall job satisfaction. Working to narrow the gap between patient expectations and reality can help improve patient satisfaction and assist with:
- Improving the patient’s perception of, and the nurse’s delivery of, quality care
- Impacting the reimbursement related to achieving patient satisfaction
- Better patient compliance, healing, and outcomes
- Reduced nurse stress from patient dissatisfaction
Clarifying Patient Expectations
The healthcare environment is familiar to the nurse, but it can be intimidating, strange and frightening to a patient during their most vulnerable time. They may not know what to expect, but may have formed unrealistic expectations of their ideal healthcare experience. These misconceptions can leave the patient feeling frustrated, and less in control, when their expectations don’t meet the reality of their treatment or if they don’t improve as quickly as they expected. This frustration may be directed at the frontline caregiver, which is often the nurse.
It can be challenging to determine each patient’s expectations of their healthcare experience since many factors can influence their perceptions. These factors can also help determine how the nurse presents information and educates the patient. These include the patient’s:
- Knowledge regarding their illness or disease
- Personal beliefs
- Previous healthcare experience
- Geographic location
The Most Trusted Profession
Nurses have been voted the most trusted profession for the last 16 years. The significant amount of time spent with the patient provides an opportunity to develop this trusting relationship. This accessibility may also influence the patient’s perception of the nurse’s ability to control unsatisfactory situations. Many of these may be out of the nurse’s control, such as the disease process and the length of time required for treatment. However, communicating what to expect during the patient’s care and taking the time to listen to their concerns, can aid in their acceptance of the treatment process and improve patient satisfaction.
Sometimes basic considerations of communications are forgotten, assumed, or missed during a busy nursing shift. Leaders can reinforce expectations for basic, effective communication. This can be shared in orientation materials, with ongoing training via scripts or rehearsed conversations, and by encouraging nurse management to model this behavior with patient and staff interactions.
- Introduce yourself and ask the patient how they would like to be addressed instead of assuming the patient will read a name tag or observe other areas it may be noted
- Provide your full attention and speak calmly while showing interest and listening to the patient’s concerns
- Ask the patient about their expectations to dispel misconceptions and by clarifying the treatment process
- Educate on what to expect during their stay at your organization with their disease, treatment, nursing care, medications and follow-up care
- Coordinate care by introducing new staff at the change of shift to convey a team approach to their care and alleviate worries regarding new staff’s awareness of the patient’s needs
- Provide explanations or clarify where the patient can get accurate answers
Nurse leaders can become proactive by sharing what the patient should expect and how these efforts at enhancing communication might benefit nursing staff. They can show staff support by becoming involved, being visible, streamlining workflow and providing other ongoing methods to share patient educational information. This may help reduce some of the nurse’s burden to clarify anticipated questions, help patients understand what to expect with their treatment, and assist in achieving a higher level of patient satisfaction.