Effective communication plays an instrumental role throughout a patient’s entire healthcare experience, and a large portion of the responsibility falls on nurses. Responsible for relaying information to a number of individuals, nurses must be able to communicate clearly, especially during periods of intense stress. Good written and verbal communication in nursing is invaluable to all involved.
Establishing Good Communication
Nurses possess a tremendous amount of medical knowledge and clinical expertise. Yet their greatest challenge — and perhaps most vital task — is communication. Every step of the way, from patient intake to patient discharge and beyond, nurses must communicate well to provide comprehensive care.
A 2014 research paper, Communication in Nursing Practice, found that nurses who display courtesy, kindness and security to their patients — through both their actions and words — are generally more successful in establishing a good rapport. The paper suggested that nurses must go beyond simply demonstrating these niceties though. They need to approach every patient-nurse interaction with the intent to understand the patient’s concerns and experiences as well as demonstrate that they are open to truly hearing patient’s input.
To do so, nurses must carefully consider where and when to talk to patients. Nurses should allow sufficient time for each patient interaction. For example, patients may be hesitant, nervous, upset or otherwise incapacitated, which may extend the time needed to have a thorough discussion of the issue at hand. Patients may find a rushed conversation frustrating or even rude. It may hinder the ability of the nurse to establish open communication with the patient, thereby slowing down or negating the treatment process.
Nurses must also be mindful of the location in which these interactions occur. Selecting an area that is free from distractions — to the greatest extent possible — may help to facilitate a more positive flow of communication. Additionally, this promotes confidentiality and protects the patient’s personal health information.
The Benefits of Communication
Studies show that good communication between nurses and patients have many benefits. First, it greatly contributes to the ability to provide patients with individualized care. Nurses who take the time to understand the unique challenges and concerns of their patients will be better prepared to advocate on their behalf and properly address issues as they arise. This greater focus on communication frequently leads to better patient outcomes as well.
Second, patients who feel like they are receiving all of the nurse’s attention during an interaction are more likely to disclose the true extent of their feelings and symptoms much quicker. Patients may also feel more satisfaction with their care if the nurse provides them with undivided attention.
Third, interpersonal communication can satisfy the innate needs of the patient as outlined in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Those needs include the feelings of safety, love and confidence, all of which are important during a patient’s treatment and recovery.
Finally, research shows that communication in nursing not only benefits the patients, but the nurses as well. Nurses who communicate well with their coworkers tend to witness an improvement in morale as well as job satisfaction. A 2014 article titled the Effective Interpersonal Communication: A Practical Guide to Improve Your Life reiterates the negative effects of poor workplace communication. High turnover rates, increased stress, and lower morale and job satisfaction are among the many downsides.
Learning to Communicate
Not everyone is a natural communicator, and even the best communicators can benefit from additional training and insight. Due to the important clinical, emotional and psychological benefits for nurses and patients, many online RN to BSN programs are now incorporating communication training into their curricula.
Coursework in professional interpersonal communication — including written and verbal techniques — can help prepare nurses for the workplace. While the significance of verbal communication is well understood, the necessity to use clear and concise written communication is often underestimated. With the rise of electronic medical records, malpractice lawsuits and insurance denials, it has become increasingly important for nurses to fully document patient encounters and treatment plans.
Those who study the role of communication and its effects on interpersonal relationships are expected to have a distinct advantage upon entering the field. Students should have the opportunity to evaluate various techniques and apply those in the classroom and clinical settings. Nurse-patient interactions must be handled with care, and students need to learn how to approach different scenarios. For example, nurses should refrain from overwhelming the patient with irrelevant details or complex language. Learning to communicate at the level of the listener, whether a patient, caregiver, or another nurse or healthcare provider, is a crucial concept.
Communication is Key
Nurses have a multitude of responsibilities when it comes to patient care. Arguably, communication tops the list. Nurses act as the hub of communication, relaying and interpreting information between physicians, caregivers, family members and patients. The ability to establish effective communication in nursing is imperative to providing the best care and patient outcomes possible.
Developing these skills starts in the classroom, where students can study techniques in more depth. Coursework covering professional interpersonal communication, including both verbal and written, is ideal. Many online RN to BSN programs offer this training as part of their curricula now due to the growing impact that effective communication has on patients, nurses, and their coworkers.
Learn more about the UNM online RN to BSN program.
Kourkouta, L., & Papathanasiou, I. V. (2014, February 20). Communication in Nursing Practice. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990376/
Vertino, K. A. (2014, September 30). Effective Interpersonal Communication: A Practical Guide to Improve Your Life. Retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Vol-19-2014/No3-Sept-2014/Effective-Interpersonal-Communication.html
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