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Good Customer Service Practices for Nurses

Having worked as a travel nurse for more than 10 years & in over 10 hospitals accross USA, Amanda has a well rounded and diverse backround.

Nursing is, in many ways, a job that relies on customer service.

Nursing is, in many ways, a job that relies on customer service.

What Is Good Customer Service in Healthcare?

Customer service is the provision of service to a customer. As this applies to healthcare, the patients, their families, and the community are the customers that are served. The service provided is health maintenance. Millions of people access healthcare each week. Whether it be routine exams, urgent care, emergency room care, lab work, radiology, surgeries... the list goes on. Healthcare is one of the largest businesses in existence, impacting millions worldwide.

In the United States, the healthcare system is set up so that patients have the right and ability to choose their providers and choose where they receive care. This means hospitals and practices must provide good customer service to compete for patients. What patient would choose to go to a doctor who is known to be rude, unprofessional, inattentive, and always seems to be in a rush? What patient would choose to seek care at a dirty facility, has long waits, or has poor outcomes and reviews?

Measuring Customer Satisfaction in Nursing

Customer satisfaction measures what people think or how they feel about the services they were provided. In hospitals, patients receive surveys to measure their perspective of the services provided. A common survey is HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Services). This survey collects objective data that enables comparisons to be made amongst hospitals across the country.

Press Ganey is a nationally recognized consulting firm that surveys patients about their Hospital experience. This allows hospitals to identify not only areas they thrive in but also areas in need of improvement.

What Patients Want in Terms of Customer Service

According to surveys: What are some of the most important things patients look for to give hospitals high satisfaction scores?

  • Courtesy when being cared for
  • Information and Explanations
  • Care in a timely manner
  • Cleanliness

Patients and families tend to spread the word about their negative experiences more often than their positive ones. Common complaints are:

  • The staff was rude
  • The hospital was dirty
  • I had to wait a long time to be seen
  • The nurses don't respond quickly to the call bells
  • It took too long for me to get my pain medication
  • The nurses didn't explain things to me
  • I didn't know what was going on and was scared

Try asking someone why they chose a particular doctor or facility, or ask for a recommendation on where to go. Only then do you hear some of the compliments or positives of a doctor, facility, or practice.

The Role of the Nurse

Nurses play an important customer service role for hospitals, doctors' offices, and other medical facilities. Nurses are the ones with the most frequent, direct patient interaction. They act as liaisons between doctors and patients and leave lasting impressions. Providing excellent customer service to patients will increase customer satisfaction. In recent years, hospitals have begun to focus on this aspect of healthcare and have implemented training programs for their employees. Sometimes employees are sent to attend Customer Service Training Programs, like the ones put out by Disney. More commonly, there is a series of in-house training seminars on Customer Service Excellence.

How Can Nurses Provide Excellent Customer Service to Their Patients?

Be personable and connect with patients

  • Listen
  • Use touch when appropriate
  • Make eye contact
  • Do not rush interactions with patients
  • Acknowledge that you are understanding the patient's desires and concerns by summarizing and stating them back to the patient and verifying that you both are on the same page

Use appropriate language

  • Discuss medical information and communicate using language that is easily understood by the patient
  • For example: If a patient has a fourth-grade reading level do not use every big word and medical term possible when discussing medical information
  • Something as simple as asking your patient how they would like to be addressed can make all the difference.
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Show that you care

  • Ask patients if they have any questions or concerns
  • Take the time to listen to any questions or concerns that the patient may have
  • Show empathy and acknowledge their issues
  • Address their issues and keep them informed on actions being taken

Involve patients in their care

  • Give patients choices whenever possible
  • Take their preferences into consideration and formulate a plan together
  • Be knowledgable and considerate of the cultural, social, or economic factors that influence their care, decision making, and interaction with the healthcare team

Take Action

Providing exceptional customer service is the responsibility of everyone in a healthcare setting. Whether you are a volunteer, admitting clerk, receptionist, security, guard, nurse, doctor, lab technician, environmental service worker, or dietary; customer service begins as soon as a patient enters the facility. First impressions matter and something as simple as greeting a patient or family member with a smile can leave a good impression of the interaction and experience. If your facility does not have a customer service training program in place, you can make this your mission. Speak to management and educators about getting a program started. You can implement a change that positively impacts the lives of millions.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Amanda S


PATRICIA HERAMAN on March 17, 2019:

great subject which is the tool used for a nurse or health care personal

but the nurse is the junction between patient and other medial staffs so they real need to practice costumer care

Kabagambe Rugamba on October 09, 2017:

Great insight and guide to Customer care.Will certainly use this for teaching nurses

BIFTU on June 05, 2017:

It is nice description for nurses to handle their pt.

Amanda S (author) from CA on December 22, 2016:

Awe thanks Larry, I take that as a compliment.

Amanda S (author) from CA on December 22, 2016:

Sergio thank you for your response/question. Customer service practices are touched upon throughout the nursing school experience, but there is not one particular class. Depending on the hospital that your wife gains employment with, a class may be provided through them. I wish your wife the best of luck.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 22, 2015:

My wife is a nurse, and in my opinion, nurses run the hospitals, not the doctors.

Great hub for reinforcing positive healthcare conduct.

Sergio Freddson on January 29, 2015:

Thank you for these tips! Is there a class in the required nursing courses that deals with these types of tips? My wife is studying to become a nurse currently and she has been learning all types of fun facts like these. I really like the way you broke everything down in layman's terms though. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us!

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 11, 2012:

@Lipnancy the medical field has always been patient oriented. Without the patients there would be no work. The difference is that patients would trust whatever the Doctors said without question. Now patients are educated and ask questions and have the right to get second opinions. With this the focus on customer service becomes more important. And yes good customer service/ good patient does save lives. thanks for the comment :)

Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on September 11, 2012:

Personally, I am happy to see the medical field finally become patient oriented. I think for so long medical professionals were made out to be Gods, a role nobody can live up too. For this field, good customer service saves lives.

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 10, 2012:

@ Sherry Hewins thanks. I am glad you liked my Hub. Customer service is a major focus in Nursing. I realize nurses are people too and can have a bad day, but they need to be able to put all things aside and be compassionate when caring for their patients because they are either going through the best time (Having a baby) or worst time (being ill and hospitalized) of their lives.

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on September 10, 2012:

You are so right. There is nothing worse than being weak and ill, and at the mercy of the staff, and feeling like they or uncaring or incompetent. Even if that's not true, poor communication with the patient or family can make it seem so. This is a situation where customer service is extremely important. Thanks for an insightful hub. Voted up and shared.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on September 10, 2012:

Excellent, excellent hub, A Day...from a nurse's perspective you hit the important points in an interesting and well organized manner. Rated way UP /U/I and I'm sharing it...

Amanda S (author) from CA on September 08, 2012:

@Suzie HQ thank you so much for your comment and compliment to nurses. It feels great to be recognized and appreciated. I am glad that you had a good experience and hope all is well.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on September 08, 2012:

Hi aDayInMyLife,

I thoroughly enjoyed this perspective on customer service,good job!

The health care system is somewhat different here and many people who have always had private medical insurance, have cancelled policies due to financial pressures. I have had recent admittance to hospital and the nurses that attended me, I have the utmost respect for. A tough job, long hours and hectic conditions. My mum was a nurse and I have always admired this profession. Congrats on a unique and important angle!

Voted up, interesting and useful!

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