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Reading Patient Body Language as a Nurse

patient body language

Courtesy of: http://positivemed.com

Reading a patient’s body language can help you understand what your patient is feeling as well as let you in on what may be going on inside their head. After all, your job as a licensed vocational nurse is to help patients, specifically by motivating them to talk. The more information you and the doctor know, the better help a patient can receive.

So how do you read body language… what signs or signals should you look for?

  • Crossed Arms – This is a classic cue that indicates the patient may be uncomfortable. Ask them if they have concerns because chances are they do. This will help the patient reveal what’s really on their mind.
  • Wandering Eyes – When the patient is either nervous or just plain bored, their eyes may start to wander around the room. If you notice this cue, you should either look into ending the discussion or attempt to make them feel comfortable.
  • Palms – If you begin to wonder if the patient is being honest or not, one cue to look for is whether or not they are showing their palms. If you can see their palms, there’s a great chance that your patient is in fact telling the truth. If not, then you may need to change your approach to get them to open up.
  • Shoulders – Stress is known to build up on the shoulders, hence the phrase “weight off my shoulders”. If you notice your patient’s shoulders are rising towards their ears, this can be interpreted as a sure sign that they need more attention. The fact of the matter is that as a patient, it’s stressful being at the doctor. Easing their stress is the reason why they’re at the doctor’s office.
  • Knuckles – Patients that clench their knuckles or have knuckles that appear to be whiter than normal oftentimes are in need of something. If you pick up on this cue, then start focusing on what it is they need and reassure them that you can help.

These cues may not be obvious at first, but as you progress in your nursing career you will begin to realize how second nature they become when talking with patients.

Nurse to patient communication is important, but nurse to doctor communication is just as important. After all, doctors are the one with the means of truly solving a patient’s issue either with a recommendation to a specialist, prescription, etc.

Marian College’s nursing program is a great way to start your career in becoming a successful licensed vocational nurse.

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