Trust Is Key – 4 Ways to Build Rapport With Your Patients

how a nurse can build trust with a patient

In a hectic work environment, it can be difficult to build a meaningful relationship with each one of your patients. Whether you work in long-term care or simply see your patients as they pass through the ER, the way you connect with them as individuals is often the most significant part of their experience. Are you interested in developing stronger trust and rapport with your patients? These four tips will get you started.

How Nurses can build trust with their patients

1. Listen. Be an active and effective listener.

We know the saying, listening and hearing are not quite the same. Don’t fall too deeply into routine, your patients are still people just like you are still a person.

While most medical professionals feel they are already stretched too thin, patients complain they don’t get enough time with their doctors and nurses. In fact, poor communication is the number one complaint to appear in surveys. Being a good listener doesn’t demand you sit still while patients recite their life story. Rather, taking just a couple extra minutes to hear their complaints will immediately help their trust in you grow.

2. Update. Keep your patient in the loop.

As a nurse, you are expected to keep up with advancements in medical practice. For the average patient, their illnesses and treatments are a complete mystery. You don’t need to teach everyone that strolls into your unit the scientific method. There is something less time-consuming!

Next time you are starting a treatment, hanging an antibiotic or wheeling somebody into the X-ray department, explain what’s happening and why it’s being done. Your patients’ confidence in you will grow as they see you treat them with respect, and they will respect your efforts more at the same time.

3. Respect. You are probably right, but that doesn’t help a patient be less contentious.

Like all healthcare professionals, nurses tend to have strong opinions regarding medical treatments and procedures. You rightfully should! That’s the whole reason you’re in this situation.

While you can do your best to educate your patients, their final decision regarding accepting or rejecting certain treatments might come down to a gut feeling. Are you going to stubbornly push them towards what you believe is right? If so, you might damage the trust you’ve built. As educators and advocates, it’s your responsibility to respect the privacy and autonomy of patients. This builds the trust that will allow you to have a meaningful impact on their care.

4. Empathize. Show interest in your patients non-clinical life or practice trivia in your mind.

Do you see your patients as the people they are? More often than not we can lose sight of that human factor in our day-to-day, especially under pressure and while enduring sub-optimal nurse to patient ratios.

We won’t say there is always time, yet it’s often possible to slip in a few personal questions to get to know your patients. Every time you enter a patient’s room to check a pump, for example, you can multitask by having a quick personal conversation. It won’t derail their treatment plan, and it will dramatically affect the trust they have in you.

This can be a fun battle between you and colleagues as well. If you can get creative and make a game of learning your patients personalities, it brings a new level of engagement to your unit and floor, as well as makes your patient more comfortable. We know it’s hard to keep squeezing that emotional sponge, so making empathy a trivia game instead of a social chore can help with that dissonance.

Even considering that you might be the only conversation that person has during the day will give you a different perspective and initiative that empathic cycle.


Trustworthiness, reliability, professionalism; you expect it from your team and hospital, your patients expect it of you. Keep that momentum strong and carry through the traits you love most with a new addition to your nurse toolkit. The Nurse Backpack app is designed to be your best helper. Think of it as a mobile personal assistant, ensuring your certifications, licenses and other professional credentials are up to date and always at your fingertips. Try it out for yourself to see how it can help transform your career.

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Nurse Backpack is a free mobile application that enables professional credential management for end-users themselves. Alerts, reminders, resume package building and sending is possible for free from the mobile app. Built for nurses originally, school nurses, nursing students, lifeguards and many other professionals also use the app for their license and credential management.