Career Development

7 Ways to Improve Communication with Patients

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By Elizabeth Binsfield BA RN, Contributor

Learning how to improve communication skills will make you a better nurse by enabling you to better understand your patient’s needs. Communicating effectively with your patients will make accomplishing your daily nursing tasks much simpler by minimizing the barriers to mutual understanding.

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Communicating Effectively with Patients

Considering your patient’s perspective is key to preventing encounters that resemble any kind of conflict, and sometimes the best way to achieve that is to, quite literally, get on their level. You can do this by practicing the following:

1. Assess your body language. Have your body at the same level as theirs. If necessary, sit in a chair so that you can be face to face and making eye contact. And always face them while speaking.

2. Make your interactions easier for them. Keep your sentences and questions short, stay on one topic at a time, and explain difficult concepts in clear terms.

3. Show them the proper respect. Accommodate their requests as much as is safe and prudent. Rather than speaking in commands, offer them choices. Strive to help them maintain their dignity.

4. Have patience. Due to their age, illness, or cognitive difficulties, they may move and speak more slowly than you do. Give them time to move at their pace. Positive patient communications need not be rushed.

5. Monitor your mechanics. Speak clearly and slowly, louder than you usually do, but without yelling. Enunciate complex words carefully, but use simple language as much as possible.

6. Provide simple written instructions when necessary; use graphics where possible. Patients coming out of surgery or trauma are less likely to remember everything you’ve told them. An easy to follow list of the basic concepts you’ve discussed will help to ensure compliance with their plan of care.

7. Give your patients ample time to respond or ask questions.This will help them feel like a valued partner in the management of their own health and make communicating effectively more likely.

Patient Communications

Including these strategies in your patient communications will strengthen your ability to provide the best possible care for your patients and make them feel like the valued partners in their own care that they are. It will also improve their experience with you and the nursing services provided by your facility, which can be beneficial to your patient satisfaction scores.

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