As a Personal Support Worker (also referred to as a Personal Care Attendant), you’re responsible for taking care of patients who are unable to care for themselves. This typically includes the elderly, but can also include those who are chronically ill or permanently injured. Your job involves ensuring the overall well-being of patients by tending to their physical, mental, and emotional health.
While a proper education is important, there are other skills that individuals working in this profession must possess: effective communication and good interpersonal skills, or patient interaction skills. These skills are vital, as they will allow you to better understand the needs of your patients so that you can provide them with the highest quality of care.
Whether you’re already working as a Personal Support Worker or you’re interested in becoming one, if you want to ensure your success and the success of your patients, this guide is for you. Below, we’ll highlight seven key patient interaction skills you need to master so that you can excel in this profession and provide your patients with the best possible care.
Stress can be described as a response to difficult and demanding situations. The reactions to stress can manifest both psychologically and physically. Stress can either be acute (a response to an immediate threat, such as a rattlesnake) or it can be chronic (a prolonged, overwhelming feeling of stress, such as a bad relationship, financial hardship, etc.) While acute stress can be a good thing, as it can serve as a motivator to improve performance, chronic stress can be detrimental to your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
As a Personal Support Worker, the patients you are caring for can experience chronic stress, as not being able to care for oneself can be frustrating. When patients are stressed, they can become irritable, experience increased physical pain, and can develop a negative outlook. Thus, stress management is an invaluable patient interaction skill that you should possess as a Personal Support Worker, as it will allow you to assist them with regaining control of their physical and mental reactions, help you promote a sense of calmness in the individuals you are caring for, and make them feel comfortable and more at ease. Stress management can be beneficial for Personal Support Workers, as well, as the nature of this job can be demanding. When your patients – and you – are less stressed, you’ll be able to provide better care.
There are several stress management techniques that you can encourage to help soothe your patients. Examples of these techniques include:
· Deep breathing
· Engaging in hobbies
· Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
· Avoiding stress triggers
Merriam-Webster defines empathy as “being aware of and sharing another person’s feelings”. In other words, empathy is the ability to emotionally identify, understand, and relate to the feelings and thoughts of others. Being empathetic means that you are able to immediately picture yourself enduring the same experiences as another individual and feel what they are feeling.
Empathy is a vital patient interaction skill for Personal Support Workers. It will enable you to better relate to your patients and the hardships they are experiencing, which will allow you to provide more compassionate care.
There are a number of ways that you can practice and strengthen empathy. Examples include:
· Listening with intent and without interrupting
· Paying close attention to nonverbal communication cues, such as body language and eye contact
· Asking others questions about themselves so you can learn more about them
· Trying to understand where others are coming from, even when you don’t agree
· Picturing yourself being in someone else’s shoes
Attentiveness refers to the ability to pay attention to and actively attend to the needs of others. For Personal Support Workers, attentiveness is extremely important, as fulfilling the needs of others is the very nature of your work. When you’re attentive, you can effectively assess the needs of your patients and better determine the best way to meet those needs.
Being attentive to the needs of your patients is a crucial patient interaction skill. There are several methods that you can employ to enhance your attentiveness and improve the care you provide for your patients. Examples include:
· Listening with intention
· Paying attention to the people and things in your environment
· Playing games that require concentration and memory
· Reading books and watching movies that promote positivity
Strong Communication Skills
The ability to communicate effectively is another critical patient interaction skill that Personal Support Workers should possess. Being able to communicate with your patients, understand their concerns and needs, and develop a good rapport with your patients is vital if you want to ensure their physical, mental, and overall health and well-being. Moreover, strong communication skills are an effective way to build trust with your patients, and trust is the foundation of compassionate care.
When you are an effective communicator, you are able to actively listen and clearly express yourself to others. Being able to strengthen your ability to communicate requires several key skills that work together in tandem; for example, some skills are emotional and interpersonal, while others focus on how you speak and present yourself. The following tips can help you enhance your ability to communicate effectively:
· Paying attention when others are speaking
· Asking probing and open-ended questions
· Asking for clarification when you’re unsure about something
· Paraphrasing and repeating back what others have said
· Staying in tune with your own feelings and the feelings of others
Being receptive means being open-minded, awake to, and aware of your surroundings and what you’re presented with. When you’re receptive, you’re more willing to consider the viewpoints of others. A lack of receptivity can result in feelings of frustration, anxiousness, irritability, and even hopelessness. As a Personal Support Worker, having a receptive attitude is important, as you’ll be more aware of the needs of the patients you are caring for.
Try the following tips to shift your attitude and make yourself more receptive to others:
· Be willing to have your ideas challenged
· Be open to the ideas of others
· Avoid feeling angry or frustrated when you’re wrong
· Take the thoughts of others into consideration
· Encourage others to share their thoughts and beliefs with you
As a Personal Support Worker, you will need to make important decisions on a regular basis. You are responsible for providing care for your patients, and decision-making is an important part of being an effective caregiver. Making well-informed decisions can not only help to improve rapport with your patients, but it can also help to enhance the quality of care you provide. Effective decision-making requires the careful assessment of the information you are provided so that you can make the best choices.
There are several tips that you can put into practice to hone your decision-making skills and improve the care you provide for your patients:
· Make and implement a plan when you’re faced with making important decisions
· Be assertive and take command of the decision-making process
· Keep things in perspective and focus on bigger, more important decisions rather than smaller, mundane decisions
Attitude is the way you feel or think about people, places, and experiences. Your attitude embodies the specific emotions you have toward someone or something and affects your response to certain individuals or situations. Attitude can also be described as your outlook and how you perceive things.
Your attitude is important, as it can influence how you respond to the world around you. For example, those who have a positive attitude tend to have more pleasant dispositions and are often more successful in both their personal and professional lives. Maintaining a positive attitude is particularly important when you’re caring for others, as it will impact the care you provide for your patients.
Being positive isn’t always easy, but there are things that you can do to practice and promote positivity:
· Use positive language
· Take the feelings of others into consideration
· Rather than complaining, look for solutions
· Show your appreciation
· Interact with positive people
· Practice gratitude
· Smile often
Improve Your Patient Interaction Skills and Your Success
Your role as a Personal Support Worker can have a substantial impact on the lives of the patients you care for. If you’re working in this field, it goes without saying that you want to improve the physical and mental health and the overall well-being of those you care for to the best of your ability. Developing effective patient interaction skills will help to ensure the best outcomes for your patients – and yourself. Implementing the aforementioned techniques and strategies can have a direct impact on the quality of care you provide, and can ensure your own satisfaction and success – both professionally and personally.