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As an ultrasound tech, it is important to be able to make the patient comfortable. Having a pleasant beside manner allows the patient to relax, meaning you can do your job more thoroughly. Ideally, you will always along with the patient, but as we know that is not always the case. Whether you are still learning the basics, or an expert in bedside manner, these tips can enhance your patient care and ultimately your career.
Level 1 Bedside Manner: The Basics
The tips in this section are easier to put in to practice as they are more focused on what you are doing, rather than the emotional state of the patient.
- Focus and Breath. A typical day can mean that you are mentally juggling twenty different things at once, but it is important to give your patient this time that they have set aside to see you. Take a moment to relax, breathe and clear your head. One or two long inhales through the nose and exhales through the mouth will help you feel focus and ready for your next patient.
- Check Your Mood. We have all had bad days, but it is important to not take them out on the patient. Think of a time when you have gone into work and your boss was in a sour mood. How that affected you is similar to how your mood affects the patient.
- Be Approachable. Part of conveying a pleasant mood and building a rapport with the patient is with a warm greeting. It may sound simple, but getting to know their name, a hello, and a little, light conversation before diving right in can go a long way.
- Maintain Control and Be Polite. You should always strive to develop a positive relationship with the patient. However, this can mean that the conversation becomes too casual, making it more difficult to communicate with them about their ultrasound. Part of bedside manner is being able to acknowledge what is being said while politely transitioning the conversation back to their appointment. The relationship between the two of you is ideally both professional and inviting.
- Be Aware of Body Language. By displaying open body language, arms uncrossed, appearing relaxed and confident, you are making yourself more inviting. It is also important to be aware of the patient’s body language. If they are feeling nervous or embarrassed, they may be hunched over, blushing, or fidgeting. Ask them how they are feeling, and speak softer and at a slower pace. They are more likely to relax and communicate with you if they see that you are calm and caring.
Level 2 Bedside Manner: Empathy
Empathy is when you understand and share your patient’s feelings. It is the core trait of great bedside manner, and also one of the hardest to put into practice. These tips can help you express empathy toward your patients.
- Listen. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is easy to go into your routine and only hear the patient speaking without really listening to what they are saying. One way to convey that you are listening to the patient is by…
- Asking Open-Ended Questions. This shows the patient that you are interested in what they have to say, and can help you discover something vital about their health. By asking a question like, “Could you tell me more about that?” you are giving them the opportunity to tell you something that they otherwise may not have. When they answer your questions, it is important to validate any of the patient’s concerns they may have by following up with it either in their current appointment or by having them book another one due to time constraints.
- Watch What You Say Emotionally. Refrain from getting angry at or judging the patient. Everyone is human, and patients make mistakes just like the rest of us. The last place they want to be judged is while they are trying to take care of their health. If you find yourself starting to become angry with a patient, briefly excuse yourself from the room, take a breath, and return fully composed.
- Watch What You Say Professionally. If you see something on the ultrasound that may contradict what the patient’s doctor previously told them, be careful how you handle the situation. If at all possible, try to discuss your findings with the patient’s doctor first so as not to unnecessarily excite or scare the patient. Do not be afraid to tell the patient that you would like to look into what you saw with their doctor before telling them what the situation may be.
- Be Available. As their appointment is coming to a close, let them know that you will be there for any questions they may have. If they need to come back for another appointment (and you feel comfortable doing so), let them know when you are typically at work so that they can schedule their next visit specifically with you.
You interact with a lot of patients on a daily basis as an ultrasound technician. Having a positive bedside manner can be a tough skill to learn, and in the end it will help you communicate with your patients and advance your career. There is no shame in being well-liked!