Skip to main content

A Patient's Advice on Improving Patient Satisfaction

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   July 19, 2016

Eye contact and authentic conversation can do more to improve patient satisfaction than following a checklist, says a patient who is an RN.

Let's cut right to the chase. We all know there's a lot of grumbling about patient satisfaction from the very people who deliver it—nurses.

Just last week, this meme popped up on a nurse friend's Facebook feed, "The only patient satisfaction score that matters… Did you die??"

I'm used to hearing fellow nurses complain about patient satisfaction scores. How its measurement is an insult to their professionalism. That it encourages patients to treat them like waitresses. That it doesn't improve care.

But more so than most complaints, this meme bothered me.

Perhaps because its sentiment is so harsh. Perhaps because I've heard this friend express frustration that nurses don't get to spend enough time with their patients. Perhaps because so many nurses became nurses to help people, not to check off boxes and get people Diet Cokes.

As both a nurse and a patient, Carol Raimondi, RN, of Elmhurst, IL, can understand some of the frustration my friend has expressed. Born with congenital heart defects, Raimondi has had multiple surgeries and hospitalizations over her lifetime.

"It was initially very patient-focused," Raimondi, who is now 40, says.

"Over the years, I feel like nurses became busier. More charting. More things to do. I knew from my own experience as a nurse. You could just see in their faces that when they came into the room. They're there physically, but you can tell they're already thinking about the next three or four things that they're doing as a result of higher acuity."

But, Raimondi says that despite the frenetic pace of today's hospital environment, nurses, and patients can cultivate the authentic connections for which both groups are longing. She offers three suggestions:

1. Know the Patient's Story

"Find out about who that patient is, not just their disease," Raimondi says.

She suggests asking patients questions such as, "What works for you?" or "What's something that, in the past, has helped?"

Don't just assume that doing something "because that's the way it's done" will help each and every patient.

"It's definitely just listening to the patient," she says. "You could have all the best technologies, the best doctors, but if you lose that focus, none of those other things really matter."

2. Make Eye Contact

Raimondi understands the realities of nursing. There is charting to do and phone calls to be answered, but pausing for a minute to connect with a patient goes a long way.

"Stop for a minute and just look me in the eyes," she says. "Ask me what you can do to help."

Raimondi says she'd rather have a short, authentic conversation where she feels listened to rather than having a nurse go down a checklist to make sure they've covered everything that will be evaluated on a patient satisfaction survey.

3. Remember Why You're There

Eye contact and a quick conversation may not seem like much, but they can be just as important as high-tech treatments or lifesaving heroics.

"Those extra little things go a long way for us as patients, but also for nurses," she says.

Once nurses realize that these small things make a huge difference to patients, Raimondi believes they'll begin to feel reconnected to the reason they became nurses—to help others.

"I feel like I got into nursing because [nurses are] compassionate and caring and a lot of that gets pulled away with all of that extra pressure of keeping all these scores high," she says.

"If they can really relate back to the patient and get back to that original reason why they went into it, I think eventually the other things don't seem as overwhelming."

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.