How to build a rapport for doctors & nurses

Communication is the key to all relationships. This is also why the relation between a doctor and his or her patient or a nurse and the patient is vastly dependent on how well they are able to communicate with one another.

The communication becomes important because patients need to tell the doctor about what has been bothering them or the exact reason as to why they are in the hospital in the first place. The main objective for every doctor, every nurse is to make the patient feel safe and free to open up. This has given birth to the notion of patient-centred consulting. This approach helps the doctor identify what is on the patients mind and to build the explanation and planning parts of the consultation accordingly.

So how should one build this rapport with the patient? One cannot just walk into the room and make the patient comfortable. The main point here is to empathize with your patient. Showing empathy towards the patient has been determined as the primary reason of building a rapport with the patient.

1-Apart from empathising, there are other ways to build a rapport too. Body language has been found to play a key role in building a rapport based on the way you sit, lean towards the patient, maintain eye contact etc. A study investigated the effects these nonverbal behaviours have on building a rapport between doctors and patients. They found that doctors who directly faced the patient, sat with uncrossed legs and did not cross their arms had a high rapport rate. They also engaged in moderate eye contact, all these are signs that led to building high rapport.

 2-The doctor-patient communication is the way through which doctors get to know the patients past their medical problems. Through having conversations with patients, one is whale to determine what would grant satisfaction to both the doctor and patient.

 3-While every doctor has his or her own individual ways through which they develop a rapport with their patients, a guideline has also been established to help guide the doctors. A conference was organised by the Association of American Medical Colleges in Cincinnati that discussed the seven key steps in how to have an effective consultation with the patients. The key steps defined are:

    1.    Build the relationship

    2.    Open the discussion

    3.    Gather information

    4.    Understand the patients perspective

    5.    Share information

    6.    Reach agreement on problems and plans

    7.    Provide closure

By trying to include these points in your consultation, you will be able to develop a better rapport with your patients.


    1.    Norfolk T, Birdi K, Walsh D. The role of empathy in establishing rapport in the consultation: a new model. Medical education. 2007 Jul 1/41(7):690-7.

    2.    Harrigan JA, Oxman TE, Rosenthal R. Rapport expressed through nonverbal behavior. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. 1985 Jun 1/9(2):95-110.

    3.    Bakic-Miric NM, Bakic NM. Successful doctor-patient communication and rapport building as the key skills of medical practice. Facta Univers. 2008/15(2):74-9


Written by Dr. Aref Alabed ,