Bedside nurse showing something to senior patient in hospital bed
Career Development July 17, 2018

By Katelynne Shepard, contributor

5 Nursing Communication Techniques That Work

Communication plays a huge role in patient care, and developing your nursing communication skills can help you become a better nurse and encourage more positive patient interactions. If you're ready to brush up on your nursing communication techniques, here are five good places to start.

5 Nursing Communication Skills for Better Patient Care

While nurses deal with doctors, fellow nurses and other medical personnel, one of the most important parts of their role is talking to patients. Working on these nursing communication skills can help you become a better nurse and provide a higher level of patient care.

1. Speak slowly

Nursing is a fast-paced job, and it's important to be able to relay information quickly to other nurses and doctors. However, when you're talking to patients, speaking too quickly or using language and abbreviations they don't understand can make patients shut down. Lisa Belanger, RN recommends nurses remind themselves to talk slowly, use accessible language and offer thorough explanations.

2. Ask open-ended questions

Asking yes or no questions makes it too easy for patients to respond in one-word answers, which can mean you don't get vital information you need to provide the best level of care. Asking open-ended questions is a nursing communication technique that forces the patient to explain what they're feeling or experiencing in more detail and makes it easier for you to ask followup questions for further evaluation or to create a more specific plan of care.

Related: 7 Ways to Improve Communication with Patients

3. Restate what you've heard

Communication isn't always easy, especially in medical situations where the patient and the nurse may have different ideas of what "a lot of pain" or "very tired" means. One way to increase patient communication is to restate what the patient has just told you so they can either confirm or correct it. For example, if a patient says "I don't want to do that," you might respond with "What I'm hearing you say is that you're uncomfortable with this, correct?" This shows that you're listening and responding to the patient's feelings and gives them the opportunity to respond with "I'm not uncomfortable; I'm scared" or something similar.

4. Don't be afraid of silence

It may seem counter-intuitive, but not talking is one of the most important nursing communication skills. Most people find silence during a conversation to be uncomfortable, so if you let there be a pause in the conversation, the patient is more likely to talk to fill the void, which can give you valuable information in how they're feeling physically, mentally and emotionally.

5. Pay attention to body language

Body language makes up the majority of human communication, and learning to interpret it correctly is one of the most important nursing communication skills you can develop. Patients who are scared or in pain may not be able — or even want — to convey their feelings accurately. Belanger notes that "you don't always have time to get to know [patients] well," making a general knowledge of body language crucial.

No matter how long you've been nursing, there's always room to get better at patient communication. Implementing these nursing communication techniques is a great way to be more effective.

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