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Tricks to Win Over Pint-sized Patients

A wise person once said, “When you’re a nurse, you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours.” That statement summarizes the life of a pediatrics nurse—on a good day. Sometimes the profound impact of a nurse’s service gets lost in an array of jittery parents, feverish tots who refuse to open their mouths, and the use of so many wrestling moves to administer a shot, you’ve considered touring with WWF more than once.

Working with pint-sized patients is rewarding, but it does require a few tricks to get the job done. Here are four strategies that are sure to bring big results when treating your smallest patients.

1. Be honest.

Nurses provide treatment, but providing compassionate care is equally important. Be forthcoming about what young patients can expect, and if a procedure is going to hurt—tell them. Explain what is going to happen and how it may feel, then emphasize that you will be quick about it. It’s difficult to anticipate all of the questions you may be asked by parents, so if you are unsure of the correct answer, be honest about it while assuring the parents that you are determined to find the answer.

2. Build trust.

When partnered with honesty, building trust improves the line of communication between nurse and patient so they can receive the proper care. Be quick to build a rapport with your patient. Smile, use the patient’s name when asking questions, give patients a job to do that helps them feel like an important part of treatment. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, one way to support children during treatment is through conversation. Making “small talk” is one way to calm a young patient while talking about something else other than the procedures. Remember, a child who feels safe will be more cooperative during treatment.

3. Communicate clearly.

Studies show that the clinician’s “ability to explain, listen and empathize can have a profound effect on biological and functional health outcomes as well as patient satisfaction and experience of care.” In other words, when a patient and the parents understand what is going on, they believe they are receiving quality care and show confidence in the provider’s abilities. By stating clearly the purpose of tests or treatments, you can reinforce trust and sustain positive rapport with the patient.

4. Show empathy.

Put yourself in their mini-sized shoes. For example, you may be comfortable in this environment, but for a child, this place means a lot of poking, pinching, feeling lousy, getting your throat swabbed, or (even worse) a possible shot. It’s important to acknowledge a young patient’s anxiety and concerns. “With empathy and heart we can help our patients feel good, valued and respected,” says Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA. “With empathy, we can connect with our patients, and we have an understanding of what they are going through.” By validating a young patient’s feelings, you can calm his or her concerns thus improving your ability to administer treatment.

In the pediatrics field, big hearts often appear in small packages. By greeting each patient with honesty, being clear about what the patient can expect, and always seeing things from their perspective, you’ll see big improvements in your ability to care for your smallest patients

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