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Career advice

Change for the better

Nurses are in an ideal position to use the simple technique of questioning to help patients change their health behaviours.

Most people know what they should or should not be doing for their health, and sometimes they just need a gentle reminder. Through empathetic questioning, nurses can extend the holistic approach to their role as educator.

To change their behaviour, a patient first needs to be convinced that the change will make a difference to their health and be confident they can adapt their behaviour to achieve a successful outcome.

The nurse can use questions to explore whether the patient is motivated to change, followed by questions exploring their plans for action (see box ). During the action stage, the nurse can help ensure change goals are SMART, that is: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

Avoid closed questions requiring a yes or no answer – these can be a conversation-stopper. Encourage the patient to speak about their problem.

Avoid questions with only two

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