Professional Nursing: Addressing Our Patients

As a nurse, you know the difficulty of balancing genuine care and compassion with a level of professionalism suiting your position. It can be hard to find the right medium between being friendly and welcoming and being professional with patients, especially the ones that you see over and over. In your efforts to quell fears, give advice, and simply taking care of patients’ daily needs, it’s easy to slip up and treat patients  little more familiarly than is appropriate.

So how do we strike the balance? How can we learn to address patients professionally while still remaining amiable? We’ve rounded up a bit of information for just this situation.

Title and Last Name

The best way to start off with a new patient is by addressing them respectfully right from the very beginning. When you get a new patient, they should be addressed by their title – Mr., Miss, Mrs., Dr., etc. – and their last name. This is the most respectful way to begin a nurse-patient relationship. If the patient wants you to call them something different and they correct you, do your best to remember their wishes. For example, if they prefer you to call them by their first name, it’s “okay” to do that.

Limit the Terms of Endearment

While it can be common for certain places to use terms of endearment freely, like in the southern states of the US, try to limit your use of them, especially at first. It may be in your nature to call everyone you meet Sweetie or Honey or something similar, but not everyone is comfortable with this, especially if you only just met. Keep these terms out of your lingo as much as you can. If you have a long-term patient and you start to build a relationship with them, feel it out before proceeding with the “Sweethearts.”

Remember the Nature of Nursing

Nursing is an old profession and one that is highly respected in the healthcare community. Nurses are known to sacrifice a lot for their job and their patients. Patients and their families look to nurses for help, guidance, and treatment. If you want to receive the respect you deserve in your position, set up that expectation by treating everyone in a manner befitting your position. After all, it’s hard to respect someone if they don’t respect you.

Empathetic Care Rules

Empathetic care is a must-have in nursing. You cannot be a successful nurse without also offering compassion and empathy to your patients. By recognizing the difficult and scary position patients are often in, you will better know how to treat them.

Patients are often afraid and in pain when they come to you. They may have to deal with embarrassing issues like using a bedpan or needing to be washed up by someone else. They are often struggling to feel human. Remember that the way you interact with these patients can affect how they perceive their own situation. If you address them respectfully, with their name and title, they won’t feel like they are being treated like children. Terms of endearment, on the other hand, can be belittling and make a patient feel like they are being pandered to.

This can be difficult as a nurse because it is our tendency to nurture and take care of patients. However, it’s important to not let that nurturing become babying, since this does no good for patients.

Final Thoughts

With all the stresses of nursing that we experience every day, it can feel silly to have to pay attention to how we address patients. Nonetheless, it is of critical importance that we make our patients feel confident, unafraid, and respected in our dealings with them, especially in how we address them. Doing so will put them at ease and let them have some control over their care.

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