advertise with us find a job post your topic join the community log in
Interacting With Patients
Time with Your Patients
It’s not quantity, it’s quality.

As a new nurse, your goal is to make a difference. You want to heal people. You want to engage with patients, communicating to them your professionalism and that you care. But countless tasks and a steep learning curve may prevent you from the patient interaction you were expecting. According to Donna Cardillo, considered to be the “guru of career development” for new nurses, this is typical. But don’t give up hope! For advice on managing your shift, read RealityRN’s interview with Cardillo:

Are new grads shocked by the limited time they have with patients?
Yes. Most of us don’t get into nursing to do tasks and procedures. We get into nursing to make a human connection and to do a lot of good.

But new nurses need to understand that they have an opportunity to connect on a very intimate level with patients, even if they don’t spend a lot of time with them. You can even connect with patients in an emergency room situation. But it’s hard to see it in the beginning when you are so bogged down with everything else.

How do you judge when to set aside tasks and spend time with the patient?
First of all, don’t expect to spend a lot of time with patients the first year. Your first year can be overwhelming. You’re learning all kinds of new skills and procedures and expanding your knowledge of drugs and disease. You’ll be bogged down. If you can hang in there, though, you’ll develop organizational skills, gain knowledge, and master the procedures. Eventually, you’ll have more time for patients. It will get better as time goes on.

When time is limited, how do you show your patients you care?
Because unexpected things come up during the day, many nurses find it works best to make rounds at the beginning of your shift. Go into each room, introduce yourself, and spend a few minutes with the patient. Let them know that you are the nurse in charge of their care, even though they may not see you much all day. If you establish a relationship, you’ll give your patients peace of mind.

You also can leave them paper and pencil and say, “If you have any questions, write them down. And when you see me later today, ask me your questions.” They won’t feel as needy, and you’ll be able to meet their needs at a time that works for you.

What are some indicators that you are connecting with a patient?
Many patients can’t communicate at the time of your interaction and thank you. In fact, many times you don’t know how your care helped your patients. But in documentaries, interviews, and books like Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, patients talk about the difference nurses have made in their lives.

This is why it’s important to reflect at the end of the day—remember what you did for people. If patients don’t have opportunities to say, “Thank you” or “I appreciate what you did,” you have to know that you helped someone in a very vulnerable time in their lives. That’s why it’s so worth it to hang in there during the first few years—you’ll become more aware of the connection as time goes on.

What helps a patient connect to a nurse?
You have to remain positive, calm, and nurturing on every level. You are the first and most vital link that the patient has in most healthcare situations. People really respect nurses. They feel comfortable with nurses. They gauge everything that’s going on by your reaction, much like a child to a parent. You may not be having a great day, but you still have to put on a positive face. You need to constantly be in that patient’s head and think about what they’re going through.

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, has been referred to as the ‘guru’ of career development for nurses. Donna is a professional keynote speaker, author, consultant, and coach. She is author of "Your 1st Year as a Nurse –Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional" from Three Rivers Press. Her accomplished career combines over 20 years of clinical, managerial and business experience, not to mention her stint as professional singer. She also operates Nursing Connections™, a free online newsletter ( Donna’s clinical experience includes emergency and psychiatric nursing. Donna received a diploma in nursing from Holy Name Hospital School of Nursing and holds a BS in Health Care Management from St. Peter’s College and an MA in Corporate and Public Communication from Monmouth University.

Read more Interacting With Patients articles

3 Responses to “Time with Your Patients”

  1. Mr Ian Says:

    I’m in psych… I prefer to stay in my own head! 🙂

    However, nice article, and I do use a lot of empathy with my patients in trying to understand how it is for them.

    I find that time is the killer for the human-ness of nursing. When time is short, duties get broken down into tasks and prioritised. When time is good, those tasks become ‘people with needs’ and more attention is given to the other issues.

    As nurses develop I also believe they learn that some of the original priorities are not as urgent as they thought when the bigger picture becomes apparent; eg palliative care – is not mostly about making sure the person gets the ordered rteatments; it’s about quality of life and the patient feeling like a person, not a clinical case.

  2. James Says:

    It kinda stinks not to have very much time with you patients, especially after you finish your clinicals where you have 1 or 2 patients at a time.
    Maybe Dr’s could spend more time with their pt’s and not just order new meds for them!

  3. mcaldwell Says:

    I too wish I had more time to spend with my patients …its a little difficult when you the nurse/patient ratio is 1:30 and you are running around to attend everyones needs…sometimes I have to step back take a breather and prioritize my time to those who may need a little more one on one time…regardless of the time with my patients I still give my 100%..but sometimes I feel like thats not enough because in the end I know I wasn’t able to spend as much time with them as I would have liked to.

Leave a Reply

search realityrn

sign up for weekly cartoons, tips, and blog posts
first name
last name

Register to win a pair of RX Medical Silver Fox Crocs

Nursing Jobs