Nursing Communication Skills: 5 Essential Guidelines

NursingMarch 09, 2014

The ability to effectively receive and convey information is critical in your role as a nurse. Strong communication skills will enhance the likelihood of positive health outcomes for your patients, so competency in this area is as essential as your technical abilities and knowledge base. These skills can be obtained through keeping a few principles in mind.

Nonverbal Communication

You speak volumes without saying a word, and this nonverbal communication can either make or break a relationship. Make eye contact with your patients and use a tone of voice that is respectful. Listen actively and attentively while observing their body language. When they are speaking, avoid glancing at your watch or giving other indications that you are in a hurry. A smile can go a long way in enabling patients to feel comfortable with you.

Educate Patients

One of your duties as a nurse is the education of your patients, a task that involves explaining medications and treatments. This may also include helping patients understand their diagnosis and teaching them how to embark on their recovery. Try to break down complex medical jargon into simple terms. Educating children or elderly patients with dementia may involve repetition and patience. Invite your patients to ask questions.

Inspire Trust

Avoid telling patients you are going to do something if it may be difficult to follow through. If you make a promise, you must keep it. Be as available and responsive to your patients' needs as your time permits. Anyone who is receiving medical care wants to feel that their concerns and complaints are being taken seriously rather than ignored or trivialized.

Show Compassion

A hospital stay is the time when a person may feel helpless, miserable and frightened. Take a moment to imagine how it would feel — it will help you express genuine empathy. Address patients by their names to make them feel like they are more than just another case or number. Treat them with dignity.

Cultural Differences

You may interact with patients from different countries, cultures or religions. Be extra cautious with these cases to avoid offending anyone or causing misunderstandings. For example, a pat on the arm may be reassuring to someone from the U.S., but someone from another part of the world may consider any unnecessary physical contact to be inappropriate. Approach your patients as individuals rather than in a one-size-fits-all manner.

Solid nursing communication skills can facilitate a better patient experience in many ways. Most of these skills stem from courtesy, a trait that can help those in your care feel valued. Moreover, adhering to these guidelines will enable their health needs to be optimally addressed.

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