01.02 Communicating with Patients

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Included In This Lesson



  1. Proper communication is important for patient safety
  2. Using a translator if needed

Nursing Points


  1. Use of a translator
    1. Translator service for language barrier
  2. Age appropriate
    1. Don’t talk to them like they are a child unless they are
  3. Terminology
    1. Terms they can understand
  4. AIDET
    1. Acknowledge
    2. Introduce
    3. Duration
    4. Explanation
    5. Thank you
  5. Hard of hearing
    1. Speak clearly, slowly, and distinctly
    2. Face the patient
    3. Do not shout


In this lesson I will help you understand the best way to communicate with patients.
Communicating well with patients is essential. Let’s look at a few items. If you have a patient that speaks a different language use a translator service that your facility provides. I had a patient once who was in tears because the doctors were coming in and trying to tell her she could be discharged early that day if she wanted and she was worried about her baby but couldn’t tell them that because they weren’t using the translator service. She was so thankful when I got on the phone with her and got everything worked out. It makes a difference. And use these approved services, some will try to use a google translate in the room but if you’ve ever done that and translated back to English it doesn’t always translate correctly. One of the nurses I work with tried to do this to find out how long the baby had eaten for and instead of saying that she said “you are going to eat your baby” and then for getting lab work it said “I am going to suck your babies blood” They laughed and she realized what that the translation wasn’t 100%. So use an approved translator for this. Age appropriate. It is important to talk to them in an age appropriate manner. So this means don’t talk to them like they are a child unless they are and refer to them respectively and no terms like “sweetie” “honey”, and “baby”. Terminology needs to be in terms they can understand. Medical terminology is complex and not known by non medical professionals so we need to keep this in mind when talking and explaining things to the patient. So no medical jargon. I have been guilty of this. I have used abbreviations before and then had to correct myself. I have explained to patients that I will have to check their baby’s blood sugar because they were GDM” What I mean is they were gestational diabetic. So it totally happens but try to avoid it because they might not speak up and ask questions and it just causes confusion. Hard of hearing patients should not be shouted at. This is easier said than done. Everyone wants to go in and shout thinking this will help but it doesn’t. You need to face the patient and speak clearly, slowly, and distinctly. I could also be found guilty on this one too. It makes sense to talk loud if they are hard of hearing don’t you think? But it can make it worse for them because shouting can exaggerate mouth movements and a lot of time the patient has learned to lip read and make sense of what is being said. So just say their name so they know you have their attention and speak slowly and clearly.

AIDET is a mnemonic that is used as a communication tool. It stands for acknowledge, introduce,, duration, explanation and thank you. Acknowledge is you greet the patient by name. Make eye contact, smile, and acknowledge anyone else in the room. Introduce is introducing yourself and your credentials to the patient. So for example “I’m so and so and I’m a registered nurse and will be taking care of you today”. Duration is giving an accurate time expectation for tests, physician arrival, and identifying any next steps if possible. If you unsure you can give them a time in which you will update the patient on the progress. Explanation is giving expectations for what to expect next, answer questions, and let the patient know how to contact you, such as the call button. Last is the thank you so just thanking the patient for their time, cooperation, or family members for being supportive.
Alright let’s look at these important key points to review. Communication is key. Make sure you use a translator or translator service if necessary. It is important to talk age appropriately. So don’t talk to the patient like they are a child if they are not a child. Use proper terminology that the patient will understand. They most likely did not go to medical school and understand the terminology we use. Incorporate that AIDET tool for communication and utilize therapeutic communication techniques like open ended questions and not minimizing their feelings.

Review the therapeutic communication techniques and the AIDET tool. Now, go out and be your best selves today. And, as always, happy nursing.