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Kentucky pediatrics office finds these simple communication tactics can dramatically improve your patient satisfaction

When a Kentucky pediatrics office surveyed its customers, it found great dissatisfaction with the nursing staff. Parents said the nurses were too busy, didn’t communicate well, and didn’t take personal interest in their children, says the manager of the five-physician office.

Yet the office has what she describes as “the sweetest, nicest, kindest nurses imaginable,” and they as well as the nursing supervisor were “shocked” at the responses. Some parents said prescriptions hadn’t been called in. Some cited lost messages such as, “I told the nurse I needed this, but the doctor didn’t know it when I got there.” Others said the nurses were distant.

The office’s solution was in-service education on communication, and the outcome was that the nurses set up a communication policy that guarantees satisfaction. Here are some of the major elements.

• The physicians must sign off on nursing notes and prescription refills. And to assure patients that the doctor knows about the call, they tell the parents, “The doctor will review this and will call you back if there is anything else to suggest.”

• There are treatment protocols for problems such as vomiting and diarrhea. With common problems, the manager says, it’s not uncommon for one nurse to give slightly different advice from another, and that “can seem like a huge difference to a parent.” The protocols ensure that “all the nurses give the same advice” all the time.

• Vaccines cause great confusion because the use recommendations are updated continuously. The office now gives the nurses updates on the changes so they can explain to parents why a vaccine has been added or why the inoculation time has changed.

• There’s a standard response when a parent is irritated or argumentative. The nurses say, “I appreciate that you are worried about your child, but is anything else going on?” That often calms the situation, she says, because the parent may have some other worry whether about the child or not, and the question demonstrates the office’s concern.

Beyond that are simple communication tactics:

• The nurses wear name tags.

• They introduce themselves to the children when they call them into the exam area.

• And to demonstrate personal attention, they address both the parent and the child by name.

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