Hospitals and clinics can be scary places for patients. Many feel that they’ve entered foreign territory with a language understood only by the insiders (providers and staff). As patients openly share their feedback about staff and provider communication through CAHPS surveys, many organizations are scrambling to find ways to make solid, sustainable improvements. One of the methods that we teach at the Baird Group is “Talking While You Work.” In other words, explain what you are doing and why. This gives the patient the sense that he or she is included in the process. Instead of things being done to them, they feel that they are involved, and things are being explained with their needs in mind.
Talking while you work goes hand-in-hand with some of the same principles of scripting, as it allows you to reinforce key messages at key times. One of the classic examples is, “I’m closing the curtain for your privacy.” When we do inpatient mystery shopping studies, I’m constantly highlighting missed opportunities where staff could have explained what they were doing to engage the patient. Not only is the mystery shopper observing interactions but afterward the patient is giving the shopper feedback about his or her own perceptions. Here is just one example:
Patient: Every time they clean my incision, they drag out all this paraphernalia. I have no idea what they’re doing.
This is a missed opportunity to assure the patient about infection control. The nurse could have been setting up the procedure by saying, “We take every step possible to prevent infections here. That’s why I am putting down this sterile pad before I clean your incision.” Not only does this type of dialog inform, but it offers reassurance and reinforces service and safety objectives.
Remember: Just because you know what you’re doing doesn’t mean the patient understands. Talking while you work makes the care about them.