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10 Ways to Help Nurses Improve Patient Satisfaction

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   September 06, 2011

Improving patient satisfaction is a financial imperative. Nurses are on the frontline of patient interaction and can make or break the patient experience. So why do we make it so hard for them to have positive interactions with patients?

Here are 10 changes to nurse procedures and working conditions that would improve patient experience. Some are simple, others more complex, all are effective.

1. Scripting: Many fear that scripting means fast food restaurant–type rote responses. In fact, it’s a useful tool when handled correctly. Scripting empowers nurses with tools to make their communication with patients easier. Regular discussion and training about patient interactions ensures nurses know what is expected. A scripting example: the hospital expects that all nurses will introduce and identify themselves and their professional credentials to new patients, and explain the treatment regimen. Scripting gives nurses tools for handling issues such as delayed procedures and lost test results. It also gives them tools for difficult situations such as deescalating angry patients.

2. Supplies: Keep frequently needed supplies in patient rooms and restock regularly. Maintain a multitude of stockrooms and supply cupboards and don’t make nurses walk miles to track them down. It’s frustrating for patients and staff when nurses have to stop what they are doing to track down supplies.

3. Uniforms: In many hospitals, RNs are indistinguishable to patients from the people delivering their meal trays. Consider choosing a defined scrub color for RNs to ensure that patients know who they can talk to and who is looking out for them.

4. Hourly rounding: Make a commitment to hourly rounding, and you will see patient satisfaction go up and call bell usage go down. Patients feel better when they know someone will be in to check on them within an hour. Alternating visits between RNs and nursing assistants ensures that the time commitment is manageable – and helps both groups plan their workflows since they no longer will spend so much time running after constant call lights.

5. Sitting down: Something as simple as sitting down when talking with patients can make a huge difference in satisfaction scores. Sitting down at the bedside implies that the nurse has time for the patient and is actively interested in the conversation.

6. Patient education: Make time for patient education. Nurses are pulled in a thousand different ways and often feel obligated to complete patient education as quickly as possible. But this time spent one-on-one means so much to patients. We know that patients often are too overwhelmed or intimidated to process information provided by physicians during initial diagnosis or post-procedure, and they look to nurses for easy-to-understand translation of difficult or complicated news. Put a value on this time with patients so that nurses will prioritize it.

7. Bedside report: Instead of conducting report at the nurse’s station or break room, do it at the bedside. Patients should be empowered to take an active part in their care. Increase their autonomy by discussing report in their presence and encouraging their involvement.

8. Nurse-led initiatives: Don’t simply hand down service improvement programs from above and tell nurses what to do. Programs driven by nurses have ready-made support and are often much more effective. Nurses will be more engaged in improving patient satisfaction when they develop ideas themselves and are accountable for success or failure.

9. Nurse empowerment: Nurses with autonomy over their practices provide better patient care. Ensure that the nurse practice council is robust and able to make decisions about clinical practice. Empower a nurse staffing committee to make decisions about safe patient care.

10. Demonstrate caring: According to Gallup polls, nurses are the most trusted professionals in the country. People can relate to nurses, whereas physicians can be intimidating to ordinary patients. The best patient satisfaction scores happen when patients feel genuinely cared for and cared about. Most nurses do this automatically. They bring an extra blanket or sit down and hold a patient’s hand for a few short minutes to provide comfort. Value these small details and recognize them publicly so that nurses know these parts of their role are just as important as the rest.

Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at

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