Hospice CAHPS Pro Tip: Hear Your Patients
“It is not important what is said, what is important is what is heard.” ― Jeffrey Fry
It takes a lot of self-control to be an active listener. Good listeners work at the skill of absorbing what another person is saying.
Merriam-Webster defines listening as:
- to pay attention to sound (listen to music)
- to hear something with thoughtful attention : give consideration (listen to a plea)
- to be alert to catch an expected sound (listen for his step)
The key words in these definitions are: Attention, consideration, & alert. Listening is not merely the act of sound waves vibrating against one’s ear drums. Listening demands attention, consideration, & alertness or it falls short.
Practicing active listening will not only benefit the speaker by being heard, but will also help you, the listener. Working on these tips will help improve the tough skills of active listening which can deliver benefits with your patients and with co-workers and other interpersonal relationships in your life.
5 Tips To Show Hospice Patients You’ve Heard Them
Tip #1. Don’t Rush To Solve The Problem
Bad listening, jumping in, interrupting before the speaker has finished their thought, comes from a place of good intentions; you’re in a rush to help.
As a hospice professional you may feel that you’ve seen & done it all. When a patient starts telling you or complaining about their situation, your mind quickly associates this moment with all the other times you’ve been in a similar situation. Your mind rushes ahead and you think, ‘I’ve got this. I know what you’re saying. I know where this is going.’ And in your rush to solve the problem, you jump in with what you think is the solution; even before your patient has had a chance to finish their thought.
Whether you’re right or wrong in your snap assessment of the issue and solution is irrelevant. 1st, you quite likely are wrong simply because the speaker hasn’t had a chance to fully express themselves. 2nd By jumping in to solve that one issue you may have grasped quickly you may miss or derail the patient from mentioning other issues. Further, even if you’re assessment is correct, the problem is you were listening while planning a response, not actively listening, By planning a response and providing the solution while the speaker is talking, the speaker will remain feeling like they were not heard.
Pro tip: Practice waiting not just until your patient has finished talking, but for a pause after they’ve finished before you respond.
Tip #2. Ask
Responding immediately without asking questions is part of the ‘rushing to help’ theme. Don’t just rush in to solve the problem. Asking questions is a great way to clarify, show concern, and instill the feeling that your patient or their loved one has been heard.
Asking questions provides space for a genuine conversation will generate more details about the issue and allows your patient or caregiver the springboard to flesh out the idea or even bring up other issues.
Pro Tip: Restate the point or get more details with key question phrases such as:
- “Do you mean … ?”
- “I’m not sure I understand.”
- “Could you tell me a bit more about that?”
- “What I’m hearing is … “
- “You seem a bit … ”
- “Let me make sure I’ve got this right.”
Tip #3. It’s Not About You
When a patient or their loved one is expressing themselves, telling them about similar situations you’ve experienced can feel like a deflection. There may or may not be similarities. That’s not the point. You can use your experience to guide your responses and treatment, but you should not share those experiences in your response. The patient or their caregiver wants to know that you’ve heard them. Talking about yourself, and your experience is about you.
How could they possibly feel heard when the response is about you and not them?
Wait for the paus. Ask questions for clarification. Then provide the solution that is tailored and focused on them with specificity. Even if it is the same solution you’ve provided for this situation a thousand times before, the patient should not feel like your response is a cookie-cutter solution where you are simply swapping patient A and patient B.
Tip #4. Mind the Gap
People communicate differently depending on a wide range of factors such as: Gender, ethnicity, culture, pain, medications, surroundings, and more.
Be aware of these differences in order to create a dialogue that leaves the patient feeling like they were able to express themselves and were actively heard.
Are you a female nurse caring for a man who has trouble showing emotion? Are you a male nurse treating a woman who culturally is shy when speaking with a man? Is your patient surrounded by loved ones and may not feel comfortable discussing bodily issues?
The examples of outside constraints on creating dialogue are endless. As the hospice professional providing care it is your job to ensure that your patient and loved ones have the space and comfort level to speak and be heard.
Tip #5. Body Language
Communicating through body language is more than smiling and making eye contact. To effectively manage the non-verbal signals you’re sending out, get into the mindset that active listening is not a passive event. Merely smiling and nodding, but not really listening isn’t going to send the signals that your patient or caregiver was actually heard.
Pay attention to all your non-verbal cues, from the professionalism of your clothing to making sure your hands are not fidgeting. Stop your tasks and make sure you’re not distracted by your phone or other outside factors while engaging in dialogue.
Pay attention to your speaker’s body language. Does their face show they’re in pain or anxious? Do they sound tense or tied?
Watching the speaker to get clues is a different form of non-verbal communication than forcing yourself to blankly make eye contact. A great exercise to improve your recognition of non-verbal communication is to watch a reality TV show with the sound off. Watch the interactions, and expressions, and you’ll see how quickly with little effort you can refocus yourself to be more mindful of how you communicate through body language and how you receive other people’s non-verbal signals.
When your patient and their loved ones are heard, they can feel it.
By practicing the skills of active listening you can create better results for your patients & their families and generate positive returns for your hospice CAHPS scores.
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