Nursing skills encompass two main components when it comes to patient dignity in healthcare:
- Technical Skills–Hard skills related to physical or scientific tasks (i.e., techniques required for taking blood samples or placing an IV, scientific knowledge surrounding treatment for a complex disorder).
- Soft Skills–Interpersonal skills and communication required to make patients feel comfortable and supported (i.e., bedside manner, soothing behaviors, social skills)
Generally technical skills are easier to learn; soft skills are often entrenched in a person’s demeanor and existing behaviors and take significant real-world practice to perfect. However, strong soft skills and interpersonal skills are crucial to helping a patient feel calm, respected, and supported.
Human dignity is a key concept in patient care, and consequently it is important to keep in mind while practicing soft skills for nursing. Human dignity is the belief that people have value because of their humanity. In other words, it is the idea that people deserve respect because they are human beings, regardless of their personal characteristics and beliefs. It is a concept that can vary across societies and cultures. In nursing, it refers to respect for all patients in all stages of disease and across all ages and groups. Human dignity incorporates elements of:
Due to the stressful nature of healthcare environments, patients may feel apprehensive, fearful, frustrated, judged, powerless, vulnerable, and anxious. Similarly, behaviors that promote human dignity such as empathy, communication, and vigilance may not be prioritized in high-stress care centers that are crunched for time and resources. Many scenarios can threaten human dignity, including:
- Patient lacks information and is not kept up to speed by care team
- Care team that makes decisions on patient care without first consulting the patient
- Violations of privacy
- Care team neglects patients–does not provide adequate time, attention, or care
- Care team lacks knowledge to care for patient or provides incorrect diagnosis/treatment
- Lack of staff, space, or supplies
- Unclean or unsanitary environments
- Spaces that are congested with people or noisy environments
- Negative behaviors of care teams–healthcare professionals that complain about patients or caregivers
It is important for nurses and other healthcare providers to promote human dignity in all scenarios to ensure patients are happy, engaged, and satisfied. Focus in the following areas can help nurses provide patient dignity nursing and excellent patient-centered care:
- Prioritize Privacy. Patient privacy is one of the most important concepts in healthcare. When a patient’s privacy is invaded, a patient may lose confidence in their care team and become angry, aggressive, anxious, despondent, or disruptive. Patients may withhold further information about their medical history or symptoms, or refuse to comply with treatment. As such, invasion of privacy is a direct threat to quality care and recovery. Dignity nursing care focuses on the following behaviors to protect patient privacy:
- Do not discuss personal information in open spaces.
- Lower your voice when discussing personal information with a patient in spaces in which conversations are easy to overhear (medbays divided by a curtain).
- Actively using screens and curtains, particularly when a patient is undergoing any kind of medical procedure or care discussion.
- Ask permission before entering an exam room.
- Offer personal care items, gowns, and drapes so patients feel more comfortable and less exposed.
- Ask for consent before touching or examining a patient.
- While examining a patient, explain each action and why you are performing it
- Refrain from speaking negatively about patients and discourage colleagues from engaging in negative talk.
- Safeguard patient privacy by refusing to discuss patient information with friends and family.
- Do not share patient information or personal stories on social media (i.e., refrain from sharing patient stories or complaints on TikTok). Maintain professionalism across all platforms.
- Promoting Respectful Culture. An organization that incorporates respect for each patient into its culture will naturally provide a welcoming environment that prioritizes human dignity. Respect for patients means providing equal care regardless of race, gender, age, citizenship, disease state, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics. A respectful culture also encourages all members of a patient’s care team to exercise empathy, compassion, and attentiveness when working with patients. Organizational culture can be shaped and built by employee training and periodic patient and caregiver feedback exercises. Nurses can also remind their colleagues to adopt the tenets of respectful culture while performing day-to-day responsibilities.
- Interpersonal Communication Development. Interpersonal communication refers to the exchange of information and feelings through verbal and non-verbal methods. Nurses can enhance their interpersonal skills by prioritizing the following behaviors:
- Respecting cultural and personal differences by asking the patient how they’d like to be addressed.
- Greeting a patient using their preferred name.
- Making direct eye contact with patients.
- Adopting a cheerful attitude (i.e., smile at the patient).
- Engaging with the patient while using open and welcoming body language.
- Responding empathetically when a patient expresses worries or concerns.
- Respect for Patient Autonomy. Patient autonomy refers to the patient’s authority to make the final decision on whether to accept or reject care and treatment, and to act as an informed stakeholder in their care decisions. It is also a key component of informed consent. Nurses and other healthcare providers have the duty to adequately inform their patients of all risks and benefits of a particular procedure or treatment protocol. Nurses need to respect patient decisions, including whether the patient decides to accept or reject care.
- Effective and Proactive Communication with Patients and Caregivers. Patients feel more supported, comfortable, and confident when they are adequately informed. Likewise, patient family members or guardians can often feel neglected or left out of the loop. Dignity-focused nurses can provide a superior experience by ensuring patients and their caregivers are updated frequently. Information about changes in treatment, pending procedures or surgeries, potential diagnoses, or discharge dates should be promptly communicated.
At SABER College of Nursing, our curriculum provides you with the necessary interpersonal skills required for respecting human dignity and developing bedside manner. Our courses stress the importance of concepts such as respect, autonomy, privacy, attention, and fairness. In particular, during our various practicums, including the Fundamentals of Nursing Clinical Practicum, Psychiatric Nursing Clinical Practicum, Medical-Surgical Nursing I Clinical Practicum, Leadership Clinical Practicum, Nursing Trends and Issues Clinical Practicum, Medical-Surgical Nursing II Clinical Practicum, and Obstetrics and Pediatrics Clinical Practicum, nursing students will be able to practice their soft skills and bedside manner in a hands-on, interactive environment.