Nolan and Collier: Tips to improve key patient conversations

It’s a new year and a new decade. What better way to start it off right than to focus on better communication with patients?

For Sarah Nolan, PA, and Melissa Collier, ARNP, in the Inpatient Diabetes Management Service, the Provider Communication Program last spring helped them to hone their communication skills and attain more effective conversations with their patients.

The Provider Communication Program is available to all physicians, APPs, PAs, and ARNPs within UI Health Care. Sign-up today!

“You’re so focused on seeing all your patients that it’s really easy to forget that, if you don’t communicate the right way, you don’t necessarily get the patient to buy into what you’re doing,” says Nolan. “We realized that it sets us up for future success if we slow down in our communication and listen a bit more.”

The patients that Nolan and Collier often see are in the hospital for care other than diabetes, and thus, may forget about the importance of keeping their diabetes in check.

“We have to do more salesmanship than most providers do, which is why we liked the class so much,” says Nolan. “We take any tricks we can find to get patients to open up a little bit.”

Sarah Nolan check vitals during patient visit.

Techniques you can use

The Provider Communication Program strives to educate providers on how they may attain more effective communication with their patients. The training teaches techniques on saving time during a patient encounter, agenda-setting, making meaningful connections with patients, and how to close a visit—along with other things.

“For me, the training reinforced that when I’m closing out an interview I need to recap what was discussed,” says Collier. “That way the patient understands exactly what they’re agreeing to for the management of their diabetes.”

“I liked that the training included tips on empowering patients,” says Nolan. “Patients are more receptive when they feel like they have some control.”

Nolan emphasized that she now begins her patient visits by asking them if she may sit down and if they have any initial questions.

“It may seem small, but it really makes a difference,” says Nolan. “You can see it in their faces.”

‘I was surprised’

By working through a variety of scenarios in both large and small groups, the Provider Communication Program is intended to improve the skills providers need to better communicate with patients, making the clinical process more enjoyable for both patient and provider.

Melissa Collier, ARNP, talking with patient

“I was so surprised,” says Collier. “I do not like to talk in front of people, but the teachers were great. It was such a relaxed environment.”

In fact, all of the sessions are led by our own UI Health Care expertly-trained providers, making the program engaging, meaningful, and useful for day-to-day scenarios.

“Being able to take the information back and actually get to use it in a real-life situation is important and helps you retain what you learned,” says Collier.

See also: Larry Marsh’s advice on patient-provider communication