Balancing Skill With Patient Experience

Many healthcare positions require a high degree of technical skill, but balancing skill with patient experience is a skill unto itself. This is especially true in direct patient care. After all, if you mess up an important technical task, you could hurt or even kill someone. But it is important to remember that those tasks almost always involve a human being at the other end of the procedure – a person who is typically frightened and vulnerable.

Gaining Confidence in Skills

I vividly recall how stressful it was to perform my first injections, my first IV starts, and my first NG tube insertions. I’m sure that during those “firsts,” I was totally focused on the task at hand out of fear that I would mess up and inadvertently hurt my patient. In the beginning, I was more focused on the task than on the person on the receiving end. Over time, as I became more proficient and gained confidence, I could safely share my attention between the human interaction and the technical task at hand. This is what most of us strive for – the balance between technical competence and the ability to relate and engage on a personal level.

Balancing Human Interaction

One of the biggest challenges clinicians face is that, when stressed, they revert to the habit of focusing on the task and not the human interaction.

It’s not that task-focused people don’t care. They get busy and overwhelmed and start thinking about the lists of tasks they need to complete. When this occurs, they are often unaware that they have shifted into task mode. The result is they appear detached or insensitive.

A few months ago, I was doing some shadow coaching with nurses. One of the nurses I shadowed was among the clinically adept I’d ever met. She prided herself in her skills and efficiency, yet was unaware of how she came across to patients and family members. To them, she seemed abrupt and uncaring because she focused on the task and not the encounter with the patient.

With feedback and coaching, this nurse quickly grasped techniques for engaging with patients to build rapport and trust. She had always cared. She just needed to show it. Now, her patients describe her as both highly skilled and caring. She’s the one they trust and want by their sides.

Take a deep dive into your organization’s patient experience. Contact us today at to conduct an audit and build a solid foundation for continued improvement. 


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