3 Ways To Communicate Better With Patients


The classroom environment is great for learning the techniques you use daily as part of your career, but often lack the personal touch that many patients need. If you are a new nurse, physical therapist, or other health care worker, you may be having some difficulty talking to patients. You explain to them what needs to be done, what you’re prescribing, or the long-term plan and the patient responds with an empty – or scared – stare. You’re not alone.

Many health care workers old and new have issues communicating with patients. The good news is that we have simple tips you can adopt when speaking with patients who may not be as knowledgeable about their own needs, or as receptive to your message.


Even if you’re speaking English with your patient, you may sound like you’re from another world if you use medical jargon in conversation. If you are trying to discuss a concept or condition with someone who may not be as knowledgeable about health care, take a moment to think about what you want to convey and word it in layman’s terms so that it is easy to understand. Be sure to strike a balance between being helpful and overly simplistic, as you do not want to sound condescending.


Depending on the topic you are discussing, many patients grasp meaning better when using visuals. Most hospitals, clinics, and patient rooms contain diagrams or models that show how anatomy ties into the patient’s condition. If there is no visual guide nearby, using your hands for the same purpose (like clenching your fist to simulate a pumping heart, or motioning to the throat to show where the esophagus is) can work too.

Small Talk

Small talk accomplishes two goals: to show the patient that you see him as a person and not a problem that needs to be solved, which is often a problem among doctors. Sometimes, a little recognition and attention is all it takes to uplift a patient’s spirits. In addition, small talk provides insight into who the patient is as a person, which can help you adjust your approach. Many workers who are just starting out in health care tend to overthink how to start small talk, but simple questions like “are you from around here?” and “how is the weather outside?” are often enough to get the ball rolling.

Communicating easily with patients is a vital skill when you work in healthcare. Prospective employers take notice of your communication capabilities. If you are in the market for a new travel therapy position, whether you practice physical therapy, nursing, speech pathology and more, check out our healthcare job listings.