How to Build Rapport with Patients: 7 Effective Tips for RNs
By Melissa Mills, RN, BSN, CCM, MHA, Contributor
Have you ever considered ways to build rapport with your patients?
Good rapport creates a close and harmonious relationship with patients. It allows you to understand your patient's feelings and communicate well with them.
The importance of rapport can’t be stressed enough in nursing. It connects you to your patients and can improve patient care.
Because of that, nurses must seek ways to build rapport with each patient. However, rapport is not a “one-size fits all” tool. You can build rapport using the patient's communication preferences and current health situation.
Unfortunately, there is no class on how to build rapport with patients. Rapport is a skill only learned through practice.
It may also come easier with some patients than with others. That said, you should attempt to build rapport even if the nurse-patient relationship is short.
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7 Ways to Build Rapport with Patients
1. Maintain Eye Contact
Maintaining eye contact communicates care and compassion. It can also show empathy and interest in your patient’s situation. Eye contact and social touch connects you to your patients and communicates understanding.
2. Show Empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand the patient’s situation, perspective and feelings. It allows you to deliver more personalized patient care. The empathetic nurse communicates and acts on their understanding of the patient.
3. Open Communication
One study found good communication to be a key factor in improving patient outcomes. Understanding your patient’s communication preferences and state of mind will help build rapport. Informing your patient of new orders or changes in their condition is one way to do this.
Encouraging your patient to share their feelings with you is another. Open communication is one of the most essential nurse communication skills needed for success.
4. Make it Personal
Being a patient can be scary. To help ease their stay, take the time to get to know your patients. Ask about their friends and family, hobbies, and other important aspects of their life.
This communicates your desire to understand them as a person, not only as a patient. This is an easy way to learn how to build rapport with your patients.
5. Active Listening
Active listening is an essential holistic healthcare tool. It is a non-intrusive way of sharing a patient’s thoughts and feelings. To practice active listening, follow these steps:
- Listen to what the patient is saying.
- Repeat what you heard to the patient.
- Check with the patient to ensure your reflection is correct.
The goal of active listening is to reflect the feeling or intent behind their words. You should listen to understand, not to respond. Practice active listening as one of several ways to build rapport.
6. Practice Mirroring
Matching the patient’s demeanor, disposition, and rhythm quickly establishes rapport. This may even mean raising your voice to match a loud patient to create a synchronized bond.
Then, with a low voice and measured movements, lead the patient to a better place. Use mirroring to become attuned to the patient during difficult conversations.
7. Keep Your Word
Keeping your word is one of the most effective ways to build rapport with patients. If you tell them you will do something, do it. If your ability to complete a task changes, communicate this with the patient. Don’t over-promise and under deliver. Keeping your word with patients not only builds rapport, it also builds trust.
There isn’t a manual on how to build rapport with patients. Some techniques will come easier to you than others. Practice each of these 7 ways to build rapport and choose the ones that come most naturally to you in your daily practice.