This Framework Will Transform Your Patient Communication
One benefit of choosing nursing as a career is that you learn so many great communication skills that can also be applied in other areas of life. One of the frameworks I learned working in hospitals is the AIDET Patient Communication Framework.
The AIDET framework was developed by the Studor Group in the early 2000’s as a framework for healthcare providers to improve patient communication and amongst the interdisciplinary groups. AIDET helps reduce anxiety or frustration, provide clarity and expectations, and leads to improved relationships and overall patient communication. It’s helpful in a variety of scenarios including service recovery, conflict resolution, and general day-to-day interpersonal interaction.
Let’s talk about how it can improve your patient communication.
A – Acknowledge
This is something we should do anytime we approach a patient or colleague; we should acknowledge his/her presence. I like using the 10/5 rule: when I’m within 10 feet of a person I make eye contact and within 5 feet I smile at the person and make a verbal introduction. This is a welcoming and respectful way to start any conversation, aligning the message of both body language and verbal language.
Acknowledge can take on another meaning when you are dealing with an upset patient or colleague. Sometimes in these scenarios we don’t get to start our interaction with a wave and a smile but rather by listening to someone upset about a situation. As mentioned in my last blog on workplace communication, it’s very important to listen fully to the person. When the upset party has finished speaking, acknowledge what he/she is upset about. This both acknowledges that you were listening and ensures that you clearly understand the situation.
For example, “Mrs. Smith, what I’m hearing is that you are upset that your husband was supposed to have a chest x-ray two hours ago and he still hasn’t had his chest x-ray, is that correct?”
I – Introduce
It is always important to introduce yourself and your role in patient care or a process to allow you and the person you are talking with to understand how you relate to the situation. In the case of service recovery, it’s also important to introduce any teammates who are better equipped to aid.
For example, “Mrs. Smith, I am Melissa, your husband’s nurse for this shift. I will elevate this concern to my charge nurse, Neil, who will coordinate with radiology to see if we can get your husband’s chest x-ray taken care of as soon as possible.”
D – Duration
Duration is important because it provides a clear expectation for time. In the hospital world we often assume the general population knows how long it takes to receive lab results or a medication to come from the pharmacy, but that’s not typically the case. By providing timeframes it decreases anxiety about something being forgotten or removing fear of the unknown.
For example, “Mrs. Smith, I’m now going to talk to Neil, my charge nurse, and I will report back to you within 20 minutes with an update.”
It’s human nature to want to know ‘the why’ behind actions. But it’s not human nature to want to listen to excuses. So please do not confuse explanations with providing excuses. If ‘the why’ behind Mr. Smith not getting an x-ray is because the patient care assistant called out that night, so the unit was short staffed, and no one was available to step off the unit and take Mr. Smith to x-ray, this is an excuse. Mrs. Smith doesn’t want to hear an excuse. Instead, provide Mrs. Smith with a step-by-step explanation about how you plan to fix the problem going forward.
For example, “If my charge nurse is unable to get a clear time for Mr. Smith’s chest x-ray in the next 20 minutes, we will then call his doctor to see if we can get the order changed to a ‘STAT’ order to expedite the process.”
This is also a great time to allow the other party to ask questions to ensure no further explanation is needed.
T – Thank you
A simple ‘thank you’ helps people feel validated and part of a conversation. It helps build better rapport and appreciation for good communication.
For example, “Thank you, Mrs. Smith for bringing this delay to our attention, we appreciate your dedication to your husband and together we will ensure he receives the best care possible.”
A final tip is to remember not to hurry out of the room and always check “Is there anything else I can do for you?’ This again will make the other party feel heard and meet his/her needs.
When I see patients in clinic and they’ve waited for a while to see me, as soon as I walk into the room I open with “I am sorry you’ve had to wait so long. I am Melissa, your nurse practitioner, thank you for your patience.’ This simple sentence of acknowledging that my patient had to wait, introducing myself, and thanking them for their patience takes an aggravated patient to a smiling and compliant patient almost every time.
Once you put this tool into practice, I promise you will find other areas of your life where you will slip into ‘AIDET mode.’ Maybe not using all steps of AIDET, or in exact order, but taking the basic principles to better communicate and resolve situations.
Outside of patient care, I’ve also used this technique with my children who require clear communication or on group projects where not everyone agrees but needs to work together. There is endless potential to improve your communication when using the AIDET Framework.
VP, Clinical Services