Nurse Communicating with her  elderly patient
Career Development Updated September 16, 2022

By Elizabeth Binsfield BA RN, Contributor

Communication in Nursing

Ways to Improve with Patients and Family Members

Communication skills are a necessity when you need to speak to a wide variety of people. 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.

Effective Patient and Family Communication               

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. Not only does effective communication reassure patients and their families, but communication can have an impact on patient care and health and streamline processes in the day-to-day work of a nurse. It shows the humanistic side of the nurse (or any healthcare professional), building trust and happy healing.

1. Assess Your Body Language

Have your body at the same level as the patient to prevent distraction and ensure that your sole focus is on them. If necessary, sit in a chair so that you can be face to face and making eye contact, versus leaning over or squating. And, always face the patient while speaking.

2. Make Your interactions Easier for Them

When communicating with a patient, keep your sentences and questions short, stay on one topic at a time, and explain difficult concepts in clear terms. Even though nurses are well-researched and knowledgeable, it’s important to speak in Layman’s Terms and simple concepts unless otherwise requested by the patient.

3. Show Them the Proper Respect

Accommodate you patient’s requests as much as is safe and prudent. Rather than speaking in commands, offer them choices and if needed, provide redirection. Strive to help them maintain their dignity. This is especially important if you’re working in a skilled nursing facility.

4. Have Patience

Depending on your patient’s age, illness, or cognitive difficulties, they may move and speak more slowly than you do. Give them time to move at their own pace. Positive patient communications need not be rushed. It’s helpful to think about putting yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would want to be treated with respect and compassion.

5. Monitor Your Mechanics

Expanding on the concept of making the interactions easier for the patients, it’s important to speak clearly and slowly, louder than you usually do, but without yelling. Enunciate complex words carefully and 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. In fact, it may be challenging for even a family member to remember the advisement you provide when emotions come into play. An easy-to-follow list of the basic concepts you’ve discussed will help to ensure compliance with their plan of care. Writing is a more permanent form of communication and may spark questions once the patient reads and digests the information.

7. Give Your Patients Ample Time to Respond or Ask Questions

Not rushing through instructions or responses will help your patients feel like a valued partner in the management of their own health and make communicating effectively more likely. Asking questions builds rapport because the patient has the opportunity to provide information  from their end or offer their own opinions.

Communication Barriers in Nursing

A study featured in the Global Journal of Health Science shared that according to the patients in their study, the most dominant communication barriers were gender differences between nurse and patient, the nurse’s reluctance for communication, a hectic environment of the ward or facility, and the patient’s anxiety, pain, and physical discomfort.

On the flipside, the most frequent communication barriers from the nurses’ viewpoint in this study were as follows: differences in colloquial languages of nurses and patients, nurses’ being overworked, family interference, and the presence of emergency patients in the ward.

Importance of Patient and Family Communication

Based on patient and nurse experience, the communication barrier could be conquered through compassion and patience. Distractions and emergencies never cease, and the workload never dwindles. It’s important for nurses to not only follow this list of communication tools, but to also avoid conveying their burdens or stress to their patients in order to achieve harmony.

Are you ready to put your communication skills to good use? Browse our open job positions or talk to a recruiter today!

Sources:
  • Markides, Markos MA. The Importance of Good Communication Between Patient and Health Professionals. Journal of Pediatric
  • Hematology/Oncology: October 2011 - Volume 33 - Issue - p S123-S125 doi: 10.1097/MPH.0b013e318230e1e5

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