healthcare professional playing patty cake, or giving double high fives, to child

5 Tips for Communicating with Pediatric Patients

Pediatric patients have unique needs. As a pediatric nurse, you must understand the clinical differences between children and adults. 

Physical differences are not the only unique aspect of caring for pediatric patients.

The pediatric nurse must be highly skilled in communication. The Texas Children’s Hospital calls the classic pediatric encounter triadic – patient, parent, and nurse. This dynamic poses great challenges when communicating with pediatric patients.

To be successful when communicating, you must be able to build relationships, get on the level of your patients, and even have a little fun. Being attuned to the unique needs of pediatric patients and their parents will help you build essential nurse communication skills.

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5 Effective Communication Tips For Pediatric Nurses

1. Build Relationships

As a pediatric nurse, you will need to build relationships with your pediatric patients and their parents. Try greeting the patient first. This communicates that you feel they are important. You need your pediatric patient’s trust for compliance. Once you have greeted the child, you can speak with the parent.

Being interactive is also a good idea. Before jumping into a lung assessment, let the child look at your stethoscope. Have them practice taking deep breaths before you ever put the stethoscope in your ears. Listen to their parent’s lungs first. Let them see that that there are no “boos-boos” with the assessment.

Be sure to describe what you are doing before you ever do it. This honest and relaxed conversation will help build trust and improve patient care.

2. Create a Comfortable Environment

The sterile examination room may be scary for pediatric patients. Make sure there are books, toys, and even crayons to use on that crinkly, noisy, exam table paper.

Creating a comfortable environment will help put pediatric patients at ease and calm their nerves.

3. Get on their Level (Literally)

Standing over your pediatric patients may make them feel uncomfortable. Kneel down to speak to them if they are on the floor. Or have mom or dad hold them on their lap or on the exam table so that you are at a similar level when sitting or standing.

4. Do Your Homework

The most skilled pediatric nurse understands the importance of connecting with the patient. Ask them what they like to do.

Be in touch with what different age groups enjoy right now. This may mean watching an episode of Bubble Guppies or downloading Snapchat. Be up to date on popular kid shows, tech, and more to keep the conversation going.

If a young child is slow to warm up, play! That’s right: build a Lego car, color a picture, or break out the Play-Doh. All children understand the language of play. Play also distracts them from scary parts of the visit.

5. Let them Help

Pediatric patients are helpers by nature. Let them help you get things ready for the assessment, hold the Band-Aid or listen to your heart first.

Being a pediatric nurse is a challenging, yet fulfilling career. Let your guard down and learn to be a kid again. This will help you when communicating with pediatric patients and their parents.

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