EMS providers should spend as much time training to improve their bedside manners as they do deciding which newfangled gear they should buy or learning to splint bones, said Richard Huff, NREMT-B, during his presentation “10 Tips to Better Bedside Manner” delivered Friday at EMS Today 2016 in Baltimore, Md.
Huff maintains that bedside manner is often given short shrift in training, though it is a critical factor in every emergency call. It is imperative for first responders and the leaders of their squads to work on boosting the focus on this key skill.
“As first responders, we’re not trained to talk to people with chunks of glass sticking out of their heads,” Huff said. “We’re trained to run through the SAMPLE questions. Bandage the wound. And move on. But how we talk to that person in that moment can change the tone of the call.”
Huff maintains that bedside manner tends to fall to the wayside through the repetition of the process. He said that first responders, over time, tend to not treat patients like people, but rather as cardiac cases or fall victims.
“How we talk to the patient, how we stand, how we act, all has an impact on the patient’s demeanor,” Huff told attendees. “What we’re doing in those moments is selling ourselves. Trouble is, we spend very little time talking or training on it.”
Additional points Huff made were:
- That it was important for EMS leaders to highlight good bedside manner.
- That it was critical for each of us to alert others when bedside manner could be better.
- How to talk to patients.
- What to do when the patient wasn’t sharing much information.
- How organizations should be committed to creating a system that stressed people skills.
“We often get bogged down focusing on the issues that impact the patient the least,” said Huff. “By spending a little more time being a better listener and a better communicator we can enhance the patient’s experience and, perhaps, build better morale within our own ranks.”