Effective Communication in Nursing
- In this course we will learn about the various communication types, threads, and barriers you will encounter during daily practice.
- You’ll also learn the basics of hearing and listening, and how this can impact the overall quality of patient care.
- You’ll leave this course with a broader understanding of how to effectively communicate in your nursing practice.
Contact Hours Awarded: 1
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The following course content
Communication in nursing is key, and the ability to communicate effectively can be our lifeline. We depend on ourself and others to be fluent and effective in the art of communication in order to perform our role as nurses successfully. When any link in our communication chain fails, we immediately see poor outcomes, wastage of resources, reductions in patient and staff satisfaction as well as a decline in the quality of patient care (1).
Types of Communication
In order to master effective communication in nursing, it is important to understand the various types of communication, their definitions and the impact they can make.
This form of communication relies solely on the utilization of body language, including body and facial mannerisms, and completely lacks spoken words or sounds (2). We perform and identify non-verbal communication in nursing daily without giving it a second thought. We may see a newborn sucking on their hands, providing us a non-verbal cue that they are hungry. When assessing a patient holding their abdomen, we would look to initially target that area because they have communicated (non-verbally) that this is where they are experiencing discomfort. Smiling when the next shift nurse is walking in the door communicates to them that you are happy to see them, and that it's about time for you to go home!
Since we perform non-verbal communication so often, it can become an incredibly powerful tool or a very negative one quickly. This form of communication in nursing can be used positively to show our patients and co-workers that we have compassion, and we are engaged. Negative forms can make patients uncomfortable with sharing their medical history and result in a lower quality of patient care. Additionally, it can lead to dysfunctional teamwork among staff.
Verbal communication occurs when we use words or sounds to discuss concepts with others (2). This form of communication in nursing has the conception to be a very easy notion, but it can create unfavorable consequences when used ineffectively. In order to produce clear verbal messages, we should always speak concisely and with confidence. As health care professionals, we have our own language, and understanding when to incorporate our medical jargon into conversations versus when to not is crucial in providing care. When communicating among co-workers, our medical knowledge can showcase professionalism and it is evident that they can follow along. However, when speaking with patients and their families, this may not always be the case and we must be able to effectively gauge our audience and ensure that they have a clear understanding of what we are teaching or explaining; this is an extremely valuable tool.
This form of communication can be either a formal or informal transcription of words that are intended to serve as a direct communication form (2). Written communication in nursing is used daily and incorporates one of our most important duties, documentation. Throughout our nursing practice, we have learned the importance and necessity of our documentation; it can be useful for legal protection or provide critical data to other health care professionals. Written communication can also be accessed through the policies and procedures we employ to perform various tasks. Having sound, written communication, and interpretation skills is vital to the overall success of our nursing career.
What type of communication is being interpreted while watching a patient walk to the bathroom?
Upon admission of a female patient for a fall, you are performing normal intake questions and a physical assessment. The patient is quiet and uses minimal verbal communication and looks down at the floor while you are in the room. What communication types are you interpreting?
The most common communication perception is usually directed to producing communication through non-verbal, verbal, or written forms. While the production of communication is important, the reception of it potentially holds even greater value. In nursing, ensuring our communication is received correctly affects every clinical, orientation, or job experience we have encountered thus far. Think about it...
- Taking notes in class or during a shift
- When a preceptor or instructor educates you on a brand-new skill or piece of equipment
- Teaching your patient, family, or student about a new diagnosis
- Watching your patient breathe for rate, depth, and effort
We must provide and receive communication in nursing through verbal, non-verbal, or written forms successfully. If communication fails, we will experience extremely negative effects throughout our entire nursing system.
Hearing & Listening
Hearing describes the process or act of perceiving sounds or spoken words (2). We hear sounds upon auscultation, varying frequencies of alarms, and patient concerns when they are voiced. Hearing all of these sounds are heavily dependent on how they are used. To achieve successful implementation of these sounds, we must also listen to these sounds and words.
To listen, we must hear and then interpret these sounds carefully (2). We interpret these sounds and words by asking additional questions, performing additional assessments, or paraphrasing the information presented.
- What is the best way to ensure a patient was actively listening while performing patient education?
- Which type of scenario requires active listening skills?
a. Putting blood tubing into a pump.
b. Watching a EKG monitor.
c. Performing a pain assessment.
- What techniques show others you are actively listening?
a. Reading a document while being talked to.
b. Making eye contact.
c. Making noises while someone is talking.
Communication Transmission Threads
Communication in nursing occurs multiple times a day between a wide range of communication threads. The type of communication, whether non-verbal, verbal, or written, must be effectively performed. Success and implementation is heavily dependent on the communication between the nurse and the communication thread.
Nurse - Nurse
Communication among nurses is continuous throughout a shift while working within a team environment. Whether it is passing documentation on to another nurse for review or vice versa, there is consistent communicative flow of all variants (non-verbal, verbal, and written) between the team in order to provide care for patients.
Nurse - Ancillary Staff
Your team members will vary depending on your nursing career setting, but some items will remain consistently important despite wherever you are. We must provide clear verbal communication when delegating or reporting critical information from the nurse to ancillary staff participating in patient, client, or resident care.
Charge Nurse - Team
When stepping into a charge nurse role, there will always be unexpected tasks, staff conflicts, or emergent situations. In this position, you will be taking all of the communication skills you have acquired and putting them into practice at an all-time high. As the charge nurse, you will be viewed as a leader, meaning that you are a role model for your fellow team members. Now, in addition to producing and receiving communication effectively, you will now be identifying poor communication and assisting with its correction.
Nurse - Patient
The nurse-to-patient communication thread is one of the ultimate and most important exchanges in the nursing profession. Patients need us, so we must be able to keep consistent and effective communication flow with them because any assessment, report, and administration of medication is contingent upon it.
Nurse - Family
The thread between the nurse and the patient’s family can be the foundation for your nurse-to-patient communication and its effectiveness. The family could be the responsible party or guardian for your patient and could potentially serve as your sole historian for patient information if the patient is unable to communicate at the time of data collection. Ensuring that the family is aware of and understands discharge instructions can further help them to recognize any potential signs or symptoms that could result in calling a physician or visiting the emergency room in the future.
- Which of the following is a beneficial way to ensure effective communication throughout multiple threads?
a. One to one conversations.
b. Reviewing a policy.
c. Bedside report.
Barriers & Improvements to Communication in Nursing
Barriers of communication in nursing happen frequently and are sometimes out of our control. These barriers include:
Utilizing available resources for language barriers through interpreter staff members or interpretation devices can ensure effective communication pathways between two individuals.
Identification of cultural differences during admission and cultural awareness will allow for effective communication management throughout each culture you are presented with.
Patient Acuity, Staffing Levels, and Time Constraints
Patient acuity, staffing levels, and time constraints can be improved by utilizing staff huddles and working together with administration in order to overcome conflicts.
Emergent situations that arise during your shift can be relieved through adequate knowledge of the policies and procedures and by performing debriefs after the situation resolves. Debriefings hold valuable insight into reflections of the emergent situations we face as nurses, especially on communication performance.
In each thread and form of communication in nursing, we must remember the following items to receive information. While producing communication, we must always be clear, concise, and accurate with the correct corresponding tone when expressed to others. When we are receiving the information, we must ensure we are understanding, investigating, and acting according to the communication presented to us. Utilizing various communication platforms, including emails, boards, and group messaging apps, can help to assist in ensuring education is received.
Benefits of Effective Communication in Nursing
When we achieve effective and therapeutic communication between both our team and patients, it will create opportunities for enhancements throughout our practice. Fostering a unity of teamwork with co-workers will increase satisfaction and reduce burnout rates. Reduced health care costs through reduced readmissions or emergency room visits will be established by successful patient education and understanding. Our quality of patient care will be heavily influenced by the nursing communication threads created through their care.
References + Disclaimer
- Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America’s most-trusted online dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/
- Effects of poor communication in healthcare. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.hipaajournal.com/effects-of-poor-communication-in-healthcare/?amp
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