How to Engage During Uncertain Times

Dr. Becky Lang

April 15, 2020

How to Engagement with our Patients and Families During Uncertain Times

During this time of uncertainty many of us are reaching out to those we serve (patients, clients, families) with a phone call.  In many cases, these individuals may not be expecting our call and we may be catching them “off-guard”. We do not know how they are currently feeling when they answer the phone; scared, happy, sad, or hopeful. We are calling them in the middle of life.  

More than ever it is essential that we (Nurses, Care Managers, Family Advocates, Health Coaches, Social Workers, Community Health Workers, Navigators, Health Practitioners, Health Promoters), all of us, keep these principles in mind when working with people during these uncertain times.


The four basic processes in person centered conversation and motivational interviewing include:

Engagement – establish a mutually trusting and respectful, helping relationship

Focus – establish and maintain specific direction of the conversation: what is important, desired, needed

Evoke – elicit or pull out the why from the individual

Plan – the next step, SMART goal, concrete plan of action


The first and perhaps most important Principle:  The Power ofEngagement

Engagement is the process of establishing a mutually trusting and respectful helping relationship.  

~ Dr. William Miller


What is the foundational principle for making this phone call?


Throughout the phone call, thoughts to keep in mind:


Possible talking points:

Is this Don Smith?  Hi, this is Amy Jones, I am a (nurse, care manager, family advocate) at the ___ (clinic, agency, etc.).  PAUSE. BREATHE. We at (name of your organization, clinic) care about your health and are reaching out to all our (patients, clients, families) to see how they are doing. PAUSE.  How are you? PAUSE.  BREATHE. Listen and reflect something that person said. 


Remember to talk slowly, introduce yourself, your credentials and where you are calling from.  PAUSE let the person take in the information.They need time to take in who you are and where you are calling from.


Listen and reflect several different times so the individual knows you are listening to them. This establishes trust, rapport, connection and engagement.

Once engagement is established, and not until, get to the FOCUS of the call. This could take 10 seconds to 2 minutes.   

Engagement goes beyond and deeper than an informal chat.

What is the purpose of your phone call or connection with the individual?  The first and most important initial process is engagement.Take time to establish this fundamental principle.


Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.


~ Henry Ford

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