a respiratory therapist examines a patient

5 Ways Respiratory Therapists Can Better Relate to Patients

In a field where you are dealing with patients of various ages with a variety of different breathing conditions, it is important to be able to connect with and relate to your patients. In many cases this initial relationship makes all the difference in your patient’s progress and the success of your therapy practices. However, achieving that level of engagement is not always easy, so having a few “tricks” for relating to patients will help you build a relationship with even those “hard-to-get-to-know” patients and families.

  1. Conduct an Interest Survey
    One of the first things you do as a therapist is survey your patients to determine his or her medical needs, but one thing you should do even before that is examine his or her emotional needs. Conducting a brief interest survey prior to any medical testing will help you identify some of your patient’s likes, dislikes, and preferences. You can also ask your patient about his or her emotional well-being at this point so you know how much support he or she needs.
  2. Establish a Common Ground
    That initial interest survey will go much further than just getting a list of things your patient prefers. In essence the purpose of the initial inventory is to help you establish a “common ground” – an interest or background experience that you and your patient share. Mentioning this common ground and using it as a sounding board from which to bolster communication and interaction will help put your patient (and you) at ease.
  3. Focus on Your Patient Not the Illness
    What your patient needs most is for you to see him or her as a person not just an illness. Current studies show the importance of doctor-patient relationships and the focus on the patient as a whole person – a process that takes time and can be difficult to achieve in a fast-paced, patient-filled schedule but one that will make all of the difference. To achieve this level of relationship, consider doing small things for your patient that are even slightly outside of the treatment regimen: going for a walk down the hall, playing a quick game with a child, bringing a favorite book to share, etc.
  4. Listen and Allow Your Patient to Talk
    Many times during treatment it is easiest to do the examining yourself and limit the actual personal interaction. Let’s be honest, listening takes time. But, listening is precisely the way that you can learn to relate to your patient. By giving your patient time to talk about his or her concerns and needs, you are showing that you value the person your patient is and know that you are not the only one who has input on his or her condition – even if you are the one with a medical degree. Listening to your patient is one of the easiest ways to connect with him or her.
  5. Utilize Other Team Members
    One of the most important ways you can improve your relationship with your client is by improving your relationship with other members of the client care team. Remember you are not the only “expert” working with any given patient, so be sure to include other clinicians as well as the individual’s family members and loved ones as part of the care team.

Relating well with your patients is one of the primary ways you can increase wellness and promote recovery. Consider implementing these 5 tips for relating to your patients and see what a difference it makes.

Last Updated: April 15, 2015