Communication in Nursing

Nursing requires a large variety of skills to be successful in the profession. Perhaps one of the most crucial of those skills is that of communication.

Communication can be a complex activity and even more so for nurses.They have to properly communicate with patients, the family of patients, coworkers, and supervisors among others. Mastering the art of communication in such a hectic work environment is no easy feat. Here is a bit of information for how to master communication in nursing.

The Communication Process

In this process of communication for nurses, there are three elements that need to be considered: the sender, the receiver, and the message. There are a number of issues that can prevent the proper conveyance of the message from the sender to the receiver, so it is critical that you are aware of the responsibilities of each component. Here is some information on each part of communication.

  • The message. The message is the information that needs to be relayed from one person to the other. The message should be clear and concise and have a specific goal. At the end of the exchange, both the sender and the receiver should understand the message in the same way.
  • The sender. It is the duty of the sender to be unambiguous and transparent as they give the message to the recipient. If you find yourself in the position of the sender and have to give certain information to others, make sure you are giving the message in the most basic way that will accomplish your goals. You must understand the message well, whether it is coming from someone else or whether it is information that you have discovered and need to share with others.
  • The receiver. The recipient of a message should practice good listening skills. Listening well the first time will prevent any frustration on the part of the sender of the message. The receiver should also be an active partner in receiving the message. In other words, he or she should ask clarifying questions where necessary and be willing to indicate their level of understanding of the message. The sender and receiver should work together to make sure there are no misunderstandings during the communication process.

Successful Communication

A conversation that could be considered a success will end in both parties knowing what the next step is after the conversation has ended. For example, a supervising nurse may ask an on-duty nurse to complete a procedure. The nurse will understand what is being asked of her, and she will relay to the supervisor that she will indeed accomplish the task and when it will be done. At the end of successful communication, there will be no confusion and things will get accomplished.

Unsuccessful Communication

Because nursing is such a demanding job where every action is important, nurses need to do all they can to prevent a breakdown of communication at the hospital or clinic. One of the most vital times for proper communication is during shift change, when a new set of nurses comes to replace the existing one at the end of their shift. Patient reports need to be transferred over, including treatments, procedures, medications, etc. If anything is communicated properly, the patient could be in jeopardy of not receiving the treatment they need. With as many liabilities as nursing includes, clear communication is key.

Communicating with Patients and Their Families

Nurses are the liaison between patients and their doctors. Patients see nurses much more often, and as such, need to have a high level of trust in them. Without that trust, communication will be stifled and instructions may be disregarded. It’s not enough to hope that patients will simply listen and do – they need to know that nurses are there to help them. If they don’t feel that, they may make unwise decisions in regard to their care. Here are some things to consider when communicating with patients or their families.

  • Be honest. In all of your communications with the patient and their families, maintain absolute honesty. You should not mislead them in any way. If you promise to do something, do it. If you can’t follow through on a promise you may have made, explain why and try to make amends.
  • Be tactful. In your honesty, make sure that you are maintaining a level of tact as well. You should never scare a patient or startle them with unpleasant news. If you need sensitive information from them or you need to tell them something, find a tactful way to share that message.
  • Be available. Your patients will have a lot of questions and concerns about their condition. They are most likely afraid or in pain. Be as available to them as you can. This is more than just being present; let them know you can answer any questions they have and don’t get upset when they do ask questions. Yes, they may want to talk at inopportune times, but do your best to make time for them.
  • As addressed above, sometimes you will be the receiver of a message, and you need to do all you can to understand that message. If the patient or family need to tell you something, they may not have the medical language to convey that message in the most efficient way. Sometimes, the patient will have a complaint regarding their care. Do your best to listen carefully, paying close attention to the patient’s or family member’s body language, tone of voice, and eye contact for the full message.

Final Thoughts

Communication is difficult enough in normal situations. As a nurse, you’ll need to practice your communication skills often, including speaking and listening. If you are able to focus on the patient and see them as a human being, you will find that communication will come easier to you.

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