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I start my assessment by sitting down next to my patient and asking them how their day has been so far... and how are they feeling? Of course I am also assessing their color , respiratory status, IV site, etc.
Their answers tell me many things that have happened in the last shift . It's also a good start to a trusting relationship.
I am showing my concern before I start the necessary poking and prodding.
Well I work with kids so getting down to their level, speaking on their level, knowing way too much about Dora, Sponge Bob, Tangled, Cars etc. explaining what I am going to do on their age level, sometimes needing to assess their parent or teddy bear before assessing them, knowing that a child's trust can be lost instantly and difficult to get back - so keeping true to my words and not making promises I can't keep. On top of that also needing to be there for their parents, listening to their concerns, vents, feelings, etc, quite often in working in peds you wind up with two (or more) patients to care for for each of your assignments.
Always always always introduce yourself! I can't tell you how many times people go in and start assessing without any hello and my name is. I often come in to find the patient does not know the name of the nurse from the previous shift. I start with hello, tell them my name and ask how their day was. A little up front patience goes a long way. You can assess a lot while talking to them for a minute. If you have white boards, write your name in it, large so they can see it. I usually come back to see what I wrote is still there from the previous shift. Ugh. The golden rule, treat others as you would like to be treated. Speak to the patient while looking at them, not their family member.
If I am ever working a day shift, I always ask a patient if they slept well night before. So much can be revealed to me and a good starting point and help me look for any areas of concern. Then I press on and tell patient what I'm going to be doing, but yes always introduce yourself first. With family members there in the room I don't disregard them, and make some small chat with them and always good eye contact. They are watching every single thing you do. And some of them I find out later are retired or active nurses themselves, so I always carry myself as a professional, but also quite personable.
I agree with the introducing oneself, also with asking the patient how they prefer to be addressed. Sitting down next to them, making a little small talk, drawing them out with conversation is good, too. I try to behave as if I am not in a hurry, even if I am extremely pressed for time. I also pay attention to my nonverbal communication. What is my posture like? What am I doing with my hands? Are my muscles tense or relaxed?
Ask permission before you pull back the covers to inspect or assess them.
A long, long time ago, as I was in labor with my soon-to-be-firstborn, a man in a white coat walked up and, as I was in the middle of a contraction, inserted his hand into my vagina, with not a glance at my face or a word of any kind to me. He was genuinely surprised I took issue with that, once I could speak again.
If it happened now, I'd tell him he had to at least buy me dinner first, and then I'd take my complaint higher up. Back then, I was much younger, and way too polite about it.
Put them at ease by not spilling the water pitcher all over their stuff while simultaneously dropping the phone on the ground and half tipping over the iv stand. It tends to to put the patients on edge. Which is the opposite of putting them at ease.