You need great communication skills—and the ability to apply them in high-stress situations—to be a successful healthcare provider, clinical nurse, or nurse leader.
Why Is Nursing Communication So Important?
When working in teams with fellow nurses and colleagues from other disciplines, effective communication skills are vital. It is also critical for patient-centered care.
Nurses who take the time to listen to and understand their patients’ concerns are better equipped to deal with problems when they emerge, which leads to better patient outcomes.
Poor communication, or a lack of communication in healthcare, on the other side, can result in patients misinterpreting instructions and failing to follow treatment protocols. It can also cause teamwork failures, which could result in a medical error.
According to a Joint Commission research, 80 percent of significant medical errors are caused by inadequate communication in healthcare during patient transfers. Patients who have built an open and trusting relationship with a nurse or healthcare practitioner are also more likely to reveal the full scope of their symptoms.
Healthcare communication competency, according to Arnold and Boggs’ book Interpersonal Relationships: Professional Communication for Nurses, is a major means of creating a trustworthy, collaborative connection with patients and families. Interpersonal communication skills have an impact on the quality of decisions made as well as patient motivation to adhere to treatment protocols and achieve desired clinical outcomes.
Nurses should have the following 10 communication skills.
Nurses should approach each patient engagement with the goal of understanding the patient’s concerns, experiences, and opinions. This includes effective verbal and nonverbal communication, active listening, and patient teach-back tactics. We’ll look at 10 essential communication skills for nurses below.
1. Communication using words
Verbal communication is essential. Always talk clearly, accurately, and truthfully. It’s also crucial to understand your target audience and talk appropriately for their age, culture, and level of health literacy. Be conscious of your tone of voice if you are upset or frustrated, and don’t let these feelings show in your patient engagement. You can:
- Ask open-ended inquiries like, “Can you tell me a little more about that?” to encourage patients to communicate.
- Instead of using patronizing pet terms like “honey” or “sweetie,” utilize the patient’s first or preferred name.
- Avoid using technical jargon and speak in full phrases.
Nonverbal Communication (NVC)
Nonverbal communication factors such as facial expressions, eye contact, body language, gestures, posture, and voice tone are also important in building rapport. Simply smiling may make a big difference. Additionally, you can:
- Maintain eye contact and nod your head to show that you are interested in what the patient is saying.
- Don’t stare, but do smile.
- When you can, take a seat and lean forward to demonstrate you’re interested.
- Use non-aggressive body language to communicate openness.
3. Paying Attention
Listening actively implies paying attention to the other person’s experience. Complete concentration and engagement are required for the greatest and most effective form of listening. This ability is useful not just for clinical nurses, but also for nurse executives and other healthcare providers who want to develop trust and commitment among their employees. Both verbal and nonverbal communication skills are required for active listening. For instance:
- Never interrupt by nodding your head.
- To show you’re interested, lean forward and keep eye contact.
- Use simple verbal support like “I understand” and “keep going.”
4. Communication in Writing
Effective nurse-to-nurse communication also requires written communication abilities. You will be in charge of generating and updating the patient’s medical record as a nurse. The medical record must be accurate and current in order for your patients to receive the best care possible. Also, keep patient confidentiality in mind. Some pointers:
- Make notes right after you finish caring for the patient so you don’t forget anything.
- Use simple language and write legibly and clearly.
- Take careful note of the dates and times.
5. Presentation Techniques
When transferring patient care to another nurse or other healthcare workers, effective presenting skills are especially useful. These abilities will also aid you in effectively demonstrating your knowledge and experience in a range of workplace situations, including presenting at conferences, engaging in job interviews, and providing case reports to physicians, among others. It is advisable to:
- Prepare a presentation and practice it.
- Pay attention to both your vocal and nonverbal interactions.
- To make your presentation more understandable, provide pictures.
- Know who your audience is and what they expect from the presentation.
6. Educating Patients (Patient Teach-Back)
The majority of communication between the healthcare team and patients is handled by nurses. Patients and family members are informed about health issues, diagnoses, treatment plans, and drug routines. This is especially crucial for family nurse practitioners who give health and education counseling to patients and their families.
Patient teach-back is a communication approach in which doctors urge patients to repeat what they’ve told them. This strategy aids patient comprehension and fosters compliance with care directions. Patients and their families may become worried or defensive as a result of a lack of understanding of facts. For instance, you could say:
- “A lot of information has been discussed. To make sure you remember everything, I’d like you to repeat everything back to me.”
- “Could you please repeat the directions for returning this drug to me?”
- “Let’s go through what we just spoke about. “Could you please describe it in your own words?”
7. Establishing Personal Relationships
It’s critical to learn about the person behind the patient. Patient-centered connections are essential for patients to feel protected and secure. Developing meaningful relationships with patients can help to enhance outcomes and build trust. Some suggestions:
- Spend a few extra minutes with each patient every day to get to know them.
- Find out something interesting about each sufferer.
- Show an interest in their life and share your own experiences.
It is critical for healthcare workers to instill trust in patients by carefully listening to their complaints and concerns. It takes time to build trust. Some patients are afraid of hospital settings. It’s critical that they feel as relaxed as possible.
As they endeavor to build the next generation of nurses, nurse educators and leaders should also cultivate trust. Nurse leaders and educators should do the following to create trust:
- Always be truthful.
- Openly share information.
- Accept responsibility for your faults.
9. Cultural Understanding
Every day, you will most certainly interact with people from various socioeconomic, cultural, and educational backgrounds. Every patient and coworker is different, so being aware and attentive is crucial. For example, assess the patient’s English proficiency and adjust your words accordingly, or bring in a translation if necessary. Use their preferred name and pronoun when dealing with trans and gender nonbinary patients.
Compassion is a crucial communication skill in the healthcare field. “Studies demonstrate that compassion can assist in spurring speedy recovery from acute sickness, strengthening the management of chronic illness, and decreasing anxiety,” according to the Journal of Compassionate Healthcare. By placing yourself in the patient’s position and understanding their needs and expectations, you can provide compassionate nursing care.
How to Overcome Nursing Communication Barriers
The message sent is not always received in the intended manner. In nursing, communication impediments lead to poor patient-nurse interactions and relationships. To overcome them, we must first comprehend the many sorts of communication barriers that nurses encounter. Dawn Weaver describes three typical communication hurdles in nursing: physical, social, and psychological, in her essay “Communication and Language Needs.”
The atmosphere in which you communicate with a patient can have a significant impact on communication effectiveness. Stress can be exacerbated by busy, noisy, and distracted environments. Close doors, open blinds, and minimize outside noises wherever possible to create a safe and comfortable environment.
Language, religion, culture, age, and norms are all examples of social barriers. Understanding the cultural background of each patient can help nurses avoid prejudice and interact effectively. It’s also a good idea to customize your communication tactics to the age of the patient:
A 12-year-old and a 70-year-old will have completely different perspectives on health and healthcare.
A trip to the doctor can be stressful for many patients. Anxiety and stress, as well as dementia and other cognitive problems, are psychological impediments. Taking extra time to listen, empathize, and be helpful might help reduce their influence. This type of psychosocial support has been shown to improve patient health and quality of life.
Nurses may also have to face psychological obstacles. It can be difficult to talk to patients and family members about death, disease, and other delicate matters. Many nurses face anxiety when discussing patient medical requirements and conditions, according to a study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
Start Developing Critical Communication Skills Right Now!
Whether you’re in an undergraduate or graduate nursing degree, learning these and other communication skills should be a part of your education. They are also simple to put into effect on the job, as you will have several opportunities to communicate with patients and coworkers. Put your favorite concept into action right now!