Building strong relationships with clients and their loved ones

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

At Thornbury Community Services (TCS), our clients are at the centre of everything we do. We always focus on building and maintaining professional and trusting relationships with each of our clients.

Today, our Clinical Nurse Manager, Nikki Goulding, shares her top tips for building relationships with clients as a healthcare professional.

Our approach at TCS focuses on ‘person-centred care’. This means we ensure our clients and their families are at the centre of the care we deliver. Person-centred care requires healthcare professionals to develop relationships that focus on the client's wishes whilst recognising and responding to their clinical and emotional needs.

To build meaningful and professional relationships with our clients, we work together with them and encourage them to make autonomous decisions to ensure they live fulfilled and rewarding lives.

When working as a healthcare professional, it’s important to avoid comparing clients and their care environments. Consider every client as an individual. Their personality, family, preferences, care needs and traditions are different, and it’s important to remember and appreciate this.

At Thornbury Community Services, all our care plans are tailored to the client’s needs. Each client has a clinical lead who manages their care plan and clinical requirements at home. We encourage all TCS workers to speak with their clinical lead for more information on any packages of care they work in.

There are many factors to consider when building relationships with clients. I have compiled together a list of the top ten tips I’ve learned from my own experience working in healthcare.


  1. Maintain eye contact

    Eye contact is a method of body language that is vital when communicating. Maintaining eye contact shows confidence. It’s important to make eye contact when first greeting a client and maintaining it when communicating with them. Eye contact connects you to your clients, communicates understanding and helps to develop trust.


  2. Display confidence

    Confidence is key. It’s important to talk to your clients and explain what you're doing and why. If possible, involve them in decision making, it will help build trust, and the client will have confidence in you. It is important to show a balance of being confident in your skills whilst listening and working in partnership with clients and their families.


  3. Display professionalism

    Remember to maintain a professional relationship at all times with your clients. As healthcare professionals, it is our responsibility to be aware of and report any signs of professional boundaries that may be or have been crossed. A professional nurse or support worker is someone who is respected. Your clients will appreciate professionalism in the workplace and will place their trust in you.


  4. Show empathy

    Empathy is the ability to understand a client's situation, perspective and emotions. It's important to be empathetic in your role. It strengthens communication skills and helps gain an understanding of how your clients are feeling. It also allows you to convey support, share experiences and build trusting relationships with the client and their family.


  5. Active listening

    The key to a successful client and healthcare professional relationship is active listening. Active listening is the ability to focus entirely on what the client is saying; whilst understanding how they feel and comprehending the information to respond appropriately and professionally. The Nursing Times has written an informative article about the top observation and listening skills to implement in your healthcare career. Here are a few key elements of active listening:

    ● Listen to exactly what the client is saying

    ● Repeat what you heard to the client (paraphrasing)

    ● Confirm with the client your reflection on what they have said is correct

    The goal of active listening is to reflect the feeling or intent behind the client’s words. Active listening means; you listen to understand, not to respond.


  6. Make it personal

    Take time to get to know your clients and their friends, family and hobbies. It shows a desire to understand them, not only as a client but also as a person. Always greet clients by their names; this shows genuine care and respect for them.

    Some clients may be very talkative and enjoy lots of conversation; others may enjoy the company of others in a peaceful environment. Stay on your toes, as this may change daily. By getting to know your clients well, you will learn their cues for how they would like to be supported each day.


  7. Mirroring

    Matching the client’s demeanour, temperament, and rhythm can quickly establish rapport and help to build a trusting relationship.

    During any challenging moments where the client or family member raises their voice, you may need to raise your voice slightly (whilst remaining professional). Use your skills to move yourself to a lower volume with calm movements. It will lead the client or family member to a better place.


  8. Keep your word

    If you tell the client or family you are going to do something, then make sure to do it. Keeping your word is an effective way of building rapport with clients. It shows they can put their trust in you. If your ability to complete a task changes, communicate this with the client.

    Remember to not over-promise and under deliver. Ensure you only promise to do things that are realistic, reasonable and achievable. Don’t set yourself up to fail by offering or promising something you know you cannot do. It will break trust with clients and families and can quickly lead to a breakdown in the relationship.


  9. Display cultural sensitivity

    As healthcare professionals, we should always have an open mind and an accepting attitude. It can mean putting aside our perspective to understand the client's point of view. A part of individualised care delivery is to ensure that we provide culturally specific care. Accepting the client for who they are regardless of diverse backgrounds and circumstances or differences in morals or beliefs allows trust to develop between the client and healthcare professional. We must acknowledge the impact of culture to practice care in a way that respects a person's beliefs and values.

    At Thornbury Community Services, our clients have bespoke care plans tailored to their clinical and cultural needs. It is important to familiarise yourself with this to support the building and maintaining of an effective relationship.


  10. Humour

For many people, humour is valuable in their day-to-day lives and helps to develop a trusting relationship. Try to get to know your client and their family personally to understand what is important to them and how humour may support building your relationship.


If you would like to join our team of healthcare professionals and help us deliver person-centred care to our clients, register with us here today and search for a job here.