CHAPTER 15 Communication
As a dental nurse you need to have, and be able to demonstrate, an interest in people: the dental nurse works with, rather than on, patients. You will need to listen to and to explore, with the patient, the beliefs and practices that are important to them and their situation, their feelings and their concerns about healthcare. Patients vary, for example in how they wish to be addressed, and so need to be asked. Remember, as mentioned in Chapter 6, not everyone is happy to be addressed by their first name. Some may also wish to involve in discussions and/or decisions people who are close to them. Check!
Greetings can ‘make’ or ‘break’ the professional relationship with a patient. So do greet patients with a smile. Always strive also to communicate in such a way that the person can understand what is being told them. This includes your facial expression and body language as well as what you say.
Asians: Unless you are aware they are Hindu or Muslim (see below), bowing is a common practice in Asia, as a way of expressing respect as well as a form of greeting. Greet with a slight bow and a handshake. Shake hands with a woman only if she offers hers.
Bowing is a common practice in Asia, a way of expressing respect and reverence, as well as a form of greeting. Greet Buddhist monks/nuns with a small bow with hands together in front of the chest and avoid hand shaking.
Muslims: Greet with ‘As Salamu Alaikum’ (May peace be with you). Use title (Mr, Mrs, Dr, Professor) followed by the first and last names. The naming system used depends on the area from which the person comes.
Establish the patient’s wishes about opposite gender healthcare professionals and try to comply. If it is not possible, a chaperone of the same gender as the patient should be available. As a dental nurse, you may well have to act as the chaperone (see Chapter 6).
Do not remove from patients any clothing, head coverings, amulets or jewellery unnecessarily and, if they really must be removed, place them carefully in a clean receptacle and never directly on the floor. Ensure appropriate facilities for washing are available if working in a hospital.
Translation services are available but, in some cultures and with some individuals, there can be concern and mistrust if the patient believes the interpreter may not accurately convey their messages to the dental care professional (DCP). In these circumstances, the patient may prefer a different professional interpreter. Where indicated, use interpreters of the same gender as the patient, preferably no younger than the patient – always ensuring first that the patient is comfortable with the interpreter. They should therefore meet, before the interview, which allows the interpreter also to assess the patient.
The relationship of a patient with their DCP can have a powerful therapeutic effect on them. In fact, it can be thought of like having a placebo effect. Failure to develop a satisfactory relationship means that this therapeutic effect will not be obtained. That’s why the communication with patients should include:
The dental team includes as a minimum a dentist and dental nurse but, much more commonly, a number of dental professionals as well as receptionists and secretaries. Technological advancements in clinical practice dictate that as a dental nurse, you should be a skilled professional with a broad range of knowledge of current techniques, materials and, most importantly, patient care.