Small talk with patients, what to say?

  1. One thing that got under my skin when I was doing ambassador work at the hospital was trying to have small talk with patients while taking them to whatever floor they needed to be on.
    It's hard to say, "how are you," "are you having a good day?" and "have a nice day," because, you know, your in a hospital and the answer to "how are you" is "not very good".....Someone should write a book on things you can say to a patient that won't remind them they are not doing well. I usually talked about weather, but that got old after 15 patients in a row. I loved doing the work though and recommend anyone interested in healthcare to do some volunteer work at the local hospital.
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  2. 12 Comments

  3. by   brownbook
    Something along the lines of, "Hello, my name is...., I'm sorry you have to be here today."
  4. by   AgentBeast
    Depending on the patient I like to inject a little humor in there. I'll say something like "Other than the fact you are in the hospital, how are you doing today?"
  5. by   Whispera
    I ask "what brings you here today?"
  6. by   Anna Flaxis
    Weather, kids/grandkids/pets, hobbies, books/movies/TV shows, etc.

    I ask elderly people how long they've lived in the area, and that sometimes leads to stories about their lives.

    Sometimes poking fun at the way things work in the hospital can break the ice. It shows that you empathize with their frustrations about how long things can take to happen, or how many times they have to repeat their allergies, identity, what happened to bring them there, etc.
  7. by   Sonjailana
    How did you sleep last night..
    What did you think of that game (whomever is local)
    You picked a good to day to be here (if there is horrible weather..often in Michigan)
    Did you get breakfast/lunch/dinner..
    Oh your flowers/hat/grandchild are soo beautiful...

    Sometimes, silence is golden. Pt's will just appreciate you being there.
  8. by   KeepItRealRN
    Ask open ended questions that give the patient an opportunity to talk about themselves.

    1. Are you from around here?
    2. What kind of work do/did you do?
    3. Do you have kids/ grandkids? How many
    4. What do you do for fun? Any hobbies?

    Avoid anything that resembles religion or politics. Refrain from sharing about yourself unless they ask and you feel comfortable answering.
  9. by   Lennonninja
    Depending on their mood, if they seem like they might like to chat, I usually ask about their families and what sort of work they did before they retired. Both of those are usually well received.
  10. by   JustEnuff2BDangerous
    As a nurse, my small talk has a dual purpose... It helps me bond with my patients, and it also helps me uncover any underlying issues/frustrations/ailments that I might not have known about. If I ask the patient, "How did you sleep last night?" and they say not well, I ask why. If they say its because they were hurting, then there's a pain med dosage/scheduling issue we need to deal with. If they say its because the bed is uncomfortable, I can see about getting them an air mattress to help with discomfort. Etc. There's always going to be people who sneer at you if you ask how they're doing and say, "Not good, I'm in this place!" but there will also be the patients who tell you, "I'm actually feeling a little better today." To the patients who sneer, I try to give them a little extra TLC, to the patients who tell me they are feeling better, I use that as an opportunity to suggest an increase in activity or diet (if permitted): "That's great! Do you feel like getting in the shower today?" Most patients in the hospital are bored/lonely for most of their day, and will appreciate any effort on your behalf to small talk. Don't be afraid of asking the wrong thing, you can always use their answer to bring a little humor or a little compassion into their day.
  11. by   xInspiredx
    There are some great suggestions mentioned by previous members. Does anyone have anymore suggestions?
  12. by   Rhi007
    Commenting on tattoos, shoes real little things, elderly people I would say hairdo, grand kids, pets
  13. by   anon456
    Quote from RNforYears
    Ask open ended questions that give the patient an opportunity to talk about themselves.

    1. Are you from around here?
    2. What kind of work do/did you do?
    3. Do you have kids/ grandkids? How many
    4. What do you do for fun? Any hobbies?

    Avoid anything that resembles religion or politics. Refrain from sharing about yourself unless they ask and you feel comfortable answering.
    I also used those questions a lot with adult patients, and now that I do peds I use the same questions to get to know the parents.
  14. by   blackvans1234
    Im the King of small talk with patients.

    "Do you live around here?"

    'Ohh I live in bobbytown right up the street'

    "Do you think it's gonna snow anymore?"

    "Are you married? [Yes] . How long? [40 Years] WOW Whats your secret?? "
    "Do you have kids? Grandkids?"
    "Are they local?"
    "What do you do / did you do for a living?"

    I was told recently i'm too buddy buddy with my patients.

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