Why nurses ask good questions – and how you can too

At 4am on Monday morning I woke in severe pain – feeling like someone had hooked high powered jumper leads to my inner left thigh – not pretty!

By daylight there was more trouble – a bright, red, burning rash spreading across my lower calf.

Neither of these improved much during the day and I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a team of smart advisors (my wife, niece and sister-in-law) who all declared I should head to hospital.

Not the place anyone wants to be a long weekend – but much better than the alternative!

The power of clear questions

Upon arrival at the emergency department of the hospital, we were instantly reassured by the warmth, professionalism and friendliness of the nurse at the triage station.

Even though he had lots of questions to ask, they were clear and we knew he had to try and get a clear picture of what was going on.

Once I was admitted, another nurse visited.

At first, I thought it strange that he was asking similar questions to the triage nurse.

Have you been hospitalised in the last 12 months? No.

Have you had any kind of operation in the last five years? No.

I was impressed though with his clarifying question…Clarifying questions

…What about operations for removal of wisdom teeth? Oh, now that you mention it…

By asking a more specific and focused question, he was able to trigger my memory and attain what was potentially valuable information.

He wasn’t pushing the issue, simply using an example of a recent experience to double-check on the situation.

What are the lessons here for you?

When working with team members or clients to help them to focus on an area of future change, have a few clarifying questions that can elicit  further information that they may have forgotten or been dismissive of.

These can sometimes act as small clues or missing pieces in the jigsaw that could help improve their performance or achieve a better result.

How can you learn to ask better questions?

If you’ve ever had a great coach in your life, you’ll most likely have had one who knows how to ask good questions. Sometimes these are questions that challenge you or push you to perform better.

Really good coaches ask questions that help you draw upon your past experience in order to shape your future.

And you’ll have the opportunity to learn how to do this using the Solutions Focus Coaching Model.

I’ve teamed up with Janine Waldman from the UK, to run ‘Get Coaching with a Solutions Focus’ workshops in Perth and Melbourne in November.

And if you’re lucky enough to be in Melbourne, you’ll tap into the experience of Janine’s business partner and fellow international Solutions Focus expert, Paul Z Jackson.

The good news is that there are still places available.

So get moving, get registered and get ready for some 500% fantastic training that will change the way you work.

PS – the hospital visit ended well, with everything back under control and me on my way home today 🙂

Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

Reader Interactions


  1. John Denton says

    Questions are the answer! But they need to be the right questions. Great blog Andrew!
    Sometimes when I’ve sought help from a mentor / coach it has taken me a few go’s to ask the right question. The first time this happened to me I was quite taken aback to get a response of “You’re not asking the right question!” Then I changed the question and again got the same response. After a few more go’s I was told “That’s it! That’s the right question”. Then I realised that not only is it critical for a coach to ask his client the right questions, but when we need help it is equally important to get the question right. BIG TOPIC – thanks for raising it Andrew.
    BTW – was a result of having your wisdom tooth (teeth) out?

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