The Patient Experience from A Nurse’s Perspective

By Victoria Derlin, BS, BSN, RN.

As nurses, we hear the phrase ‘patient experience’ frequently. Nursing is a diverse career. We can work in all settings, from patients’ homes, offices, ambulances, helicopters, cruise ships, schools, and hospitals. We all come from different backgrounds, ethnic groups, and beliefs. Patients are always the priority and main focus wherever we work or our background 

What is the Patient Experience? 

Have you ever thought about what the patient experience means? Nurses are just one factor in the patient experience, but we have a tremendous impact. The patient experience starts as soon as a patient arrives or even communicates with the facility before coming. Consider a patient calling to make an appointment and is left on hold for over 10 minutes. Then the representative they speak with to make the appointment could be more friendly. The patient may interpret the office badly, even with that first phone call.  

Every person impacts the patient experience they contact in the facility, from the cleaning staff to the administrators. For example, think about a patient or family member with whom you cross paths within the hallway. Do you say hello to them and smile, or do you rush past and not make eye contact?  

You May Not Know What Someone Is Going Through  

Each of us needs to learn that we don’t know what people are going through. The person you just passed in the hallway may have just been told that they have cancer or maybe their family member is terminally ill. It does not take much effort to say a friendly hello to show that person a bit of kindness.  

Many patients we come in contact with have chronic or painful medical conditions. Living with a medical condition can be exhausting and frustrating. They may not be able to have a job due to their situation, so it makes it difficult to pay their bills. They may not be able to have an everyday social life because they are in so much pain, or they just can’t do what their peers are doing. As a nurse, we must be able to understand and sympathize with our patients and their family members.   

Being a Nurse is Not Easy  

Nursing is difficult and stressful, and we are all flawed. Most likely, each of us has experienced being overworked and understaffed. We have had a patient or a family member treat us unkindly, aggressively, or threaten us when we try our best, even though many variables are out of our control. It is difficult to be treated like that and then go into the next patient’s room, be pleasant, and pretend nothing has happened. It isn’t easy to do, but we know we must go on. I am not saying it is fair, but it is the reality of a nursing career. We mustn’t allow our emotions to affect the experience of a patient or a family member.   

Nurses Have Tremendous Skills 

Nurses learn so many life skills from nursing school and on the job. We know how to resolve conflict, handle stress, deal with different personalities, work with others, compromise, and speak up in difficult situations. Nurses often need to realize how resourceful and skilled we are. 

Nurses Should Have Customer Service Skills 

Another essential skill I have learned as a nurse is customer service. You may think this is outrageous, but it is true: our patients are our customers. They usually don’t have to come to your specific company for care. They could go to the next hospital, doctor’s office, or health company. Patients have chosen to go to the company where you work. If they don’t have a good experience, they could go down the road to the next company. We can only nurse if we have patients. Good customer service skills are essential to a nurse’s role.  


We sometimes need to find out what our patients and their family members are going through. Showing kindness is essential to being a nurse and a good human being. Next time you are having a difficult day, remember that we couldn’t be nurses without patients. We must be able to give them a good patient experience. Nurses will have complex patients who will not be happy no matter what we do, but if we put our best foot forward, we can confidently know that we tried our best and did our job. We might not have had a class titled “Customer Service” in nursing school, but it has always been an essential part of a nurse’s job.   

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