Let's face it: A person can listen to or associate much better with someone like themselves. In healthcare, the nurse spends the most time with the patient, so a positive relationship has a great impact on the patient's experience and sets the tone for overall satisfaction.  It is vital for nurses to build rapport with our patients. 


So, how do we build rapport with our patients? 

1. Get to know them.  To build a relationship, it is important to know more about your patients than just their disease process. Relating to hobbies, children, or other interests might help the patient feel comfortable, and it might lessen the overall anxiety of the visit.

2. Educate.  Patients trust us, along with their physicians, to be their educators. They want to understand their treatment options and disease consequences. It is important for them to have an understanding of the healing process so that they can then make educated choices.  Also, when educating, be sensitive to visual or auditory limitations and to language barriers. These are some ways to educate:

  • Offer them reading material - this means including appropriate literature in the waiting room and/or office.
  • Provide them with appropriate website links.
  • Set them up with community resources.
  • Provide video resources.
  • Allow the opportunity for questions.

3. Anticipate their needs. Whether in the acute care or primary care setting, learn to anticipate your patients’ needs.  This will show them that you do care and that you want to provide them with the best plan of care possible.

4. Follow through.  To build credibility, it is essential to follow through with what you say you are going to do.  For instance, if you tell your patient that you are going to call her with a list of diabetic educators, do it!  This shows that you care and that you can be trusted.

5. Make other care providers aware.  Make sure that other members of the patients’ care team are familiar with each other.  Some of them might have similar interests, and this can create an atmosphere of comfort and trust.

6.  Respectfully call them by their name.  We, as nurses mean no offense by using terms of endearment such as "Honey", "Sweetie" or "Darling".  With a heavy nurse-to-patient ratio, it is a challenge to remember each patient's name all the time.  However, nothing shows respect better than taking the time to call our patients by their name.  After introducing yourself, ask, "Mr. Smith, how would you like for me to call you?"  This little act will go a long way in making your patients feel more comfortable and at ease with you.  Make sure to note his or her response in your chart and share this with the rest of the nursing staff.  

7. Listen actively.  Active listening is important in any partnership and/or relationship.  But when discussing treatment options or plans of care, listen actively to your patient by providing eye contact and/or by responding to their comments.  These demonstrate appreciation and value.

8. Offer follow-up calls or surveys. Another way of saying “I care” is to provide a follow up phone call after a visit.  This just says, “I know that our visit is over, but I want to be sure that you are ok.”  Patient satisfaction surveys are another way of saying, “I want to do everything I can to be sure that your visit or hospital stay was pleasurable-you are that important to me.”

9. Remain calm and friendly. We all have our personal bias but it is important to respect our patients’ preferences and choices.  It is equally important to make eye-contact and appropriate non-verbal gestures when communicating.

10. Offer appropriate greetings and closings.  When greeting your patient, whether in the hospital or in primary care setting introduce yourself as the nurse and offer that your goal is to promote wellbeing.  When leaving the patient say, “I will be ending my shift but I look forward to seeing you tomorrow (or at your next appointment).”  In the hospital, it is often helpful to round with the oncoming nurse and to introduce her to the patient.  Don't forget to use their name!

Establishing a working relationship with yourpatient is essential. You might be the most educated and qualified nurse on the unit, but unless you have a positive relationship with everyone you deal with, that is all for naught.  Hopefully, these techniques will help us, as healthcare providers, to build rapport with our patients, because it is often the gateway toward the therapeutic outcome.