Leadership | Nursing Practices

Nursing Communication: The Process to Becoming Effective Communicators

  • Communication can make or break processes. 
  • Effective nursing communication is important between staff, patients and providers. There is little room for error in message and delivery because patients’ lives can be on the line. 
  • Nurse managers should take the time to educate proper nursing communication practices with their staff and lead by example.

Amy White

RN, MSN – Chief Nursing Officer

May 13, 2022
Simmons University

Effective communication is paramount in today’s society regardless of the business, industry, or organization, and this is even more important for nurse managers.  At a time when nursing shortages are at an all-time high, the prevalence of strong nursing communication is critical. 

A leader’s message has a strong impact on how a crisis is managed, marketing initiatives, team building, relations with stakeholders, and engagement among staff.   

The way messages are delivered has great merit as well.  Some of the first steps in creating messages that will be remembered involve the content, intended audience, the process of clarifying goals, keeping the focus and value, and the leader’s style.  

To be an effective communicator one needs to keep in mind the types of leaders, communication tools, and the ways to deliver messages.

The Four Groups of Messages in Nursing Communication

It is important for the nurse leader to inform staff about the major changes involving policies, procedures, or a new patient care model.  However, it is imperative that the nurse leader delivers the message in a constructive way.   

The four identified groups that leaders typically fall under when constructing a message are 1) the medium is the message, 2) the market is the message, 3) the message is the message, and 4) the messenger is the message (Roussel, Thomas, and Harris 2016).   

Within each approach, the construction of how messages are delivered is of paramount importance and it is to the leader’s advantage to blend the four approaches.   

Blending the different approaches typically works well and provides a more holistic approach.  The approaches need to balance each other and complement each other.



nursing communication message

The Medium is The Message

The medium is the message – this approach uses a medium that places a filter on a message in a way that significantly influences how the message is interpreted.  An example of this is Twitter.  There is a 280-character limit that forces people to be quick and to the point – oftentimes sacrificing context in the process.   

Communication of this sort spans across networks, countries, and cultures.  Due to this, many times a poorly summarized version of the story makes it into someone’s mind.   When that person goes to retell it, they typically shorten and simplify it even further.  Since the initial sharing of the story was poorly done, the retellings are extremely ineffective and ultimately the story actually ends up circulating only a portion of the truth.   

Once leaders know who they’re talking to and what they are saying to their employees, the leaders need to determine the best way to reach the employees.  In order to do this, the leader has to decide on the medium they are going to use. 

Is it going to be through direct email or is it going to be in person?  Is it going to be delivered in a large group meeting or a smaller group meeting?  Oftentimes, leaders wrestle with choosing the best medium.




nursing communication medium.

The Message is The Message

The message is the message – once leaders know the “who”, the “what” is the next area to target.  What is the main objective of what the leaders can offer the employees? 

What do the leaders’ offer that can assist in solving the problems and challenges among employees?   What is the main message that the nurse leader wants the employees to know or understand?  Keep in mind the target audience when conducting the message. 

The Messenger is The Message

The messenger is the message – examines how influence has shifted to the individual and in today’s world and workforce, the message has become the messenger.  The businessman or businesswoman doubles as an advocate.  

For example, the blogger runs a non-profit organization and there are often roles that overlap in today’s messengers that involve a collection of the people who inspire and inform those who created it.  The voices of others can truly influence individuals. 

Communication Tools

When conveying a message, communicators and leaders must think about the target audience, being sure to use terms and phrases that the individuals will understand. 

In honor of  respecting others’ time, communication should aim for preciseness without sacrificing clarity and completeness. Using e-mail can become burdensome as individuals can interpret electronic communication differently than the intended purpose.  

The absence of non-verbal cues, such as tone of voice or body language, means that written communication can be more easily misinterpreted and even cause offense.  Consequently, important communications may warrant review by someone who can assess the tone and content and provide feedback.

Effective Ways to Deliver Messages

Nursing leaders must be direct in addressing the information immediately or as soon as possible in order for employees to not obtain inaccurate information from another source.

Honesty is the absolute best way to deliver any type of message and leaders need to provide factual information and reasoning to employees and team members.   

Also, nursing leaders must take responsibility for decisions that are made whether the end result is a positive anticipated outcome or a negative outcome that does not improve what was intended.   

When employees are presented with important messages and discussions, the nursing leaders need to allow time for responses and/or questions to be answered. 

Leaders must focus on the future, but it is also imperative to focus on the “here and now” as well.  Any information, thoughts, recommendations, or ideas should be fully followed through with respect and an attitude of sincerity being represented.   

Five Keys to Effective Nursing Communication

  • When leaders talk to employees, always be honest with them 
  • Speak directly to people and not indirectly  
  • Practice active listening skills even if the leader doesn’t fully agree with what is being discussed 
  • Adopt a leadership style that involves active participation among the employees
  • Choose your words carefully and wisely



nursing communication medium.

The Bottom Line

Communication in nursing is very important in an age where shortages are ever present, and the addition of working with travel nurses, who you may be unfamilar. It is important to take the time to understand the complexities of nursing communication to meet the needs of patients and providers. There is little room for error in communication because a patient life could be on the line. 

As a nurse leader, it is not a simple process to make a change.  It takes time, effort, discussion, team work, patience, consistency, and honesty to make sure that all employees are aware of the impending changes and the rationales for these changes. Leaders, managers, take time to emphasize best nursing communication practices to your staff and lead by example. 

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