Good communication between nurses and patients is vital to give a higher level of care. To achieve this, however, effective communication skills are very important to develop for nurses and the ability to communicate well with their patients can help build connections, develop positive patient outcomes and prevent unwarranted mistakes.
Here are the 7 effective communication skills for nurses:
1. INTRODUCE YOURSELF
Introducing yourself is the very first important action for an effective communication because this simply set up a foundation of therapeutic nurse-patient relationship.
Introduce yourself as their nurse by initially greeting your patients and offering your hand to shake if the situation permits. This is a formal way of initiating the first contact and can convey professionalism, warmth and respect.
Shake your patient’s hand with a firm grip, looking directly at their eyes while smiling as this indicates that you are sincere and pleased to meet them.
After the first contact, explain your purpose and role as a nurse and try to engage your patients or even their relatives or guardian in a partnership with you.
2. LISTEN ACTIVELY
One of the most essential communication skill you can have is being able to listen to your patients. Not just by hearing them, but by connecting with them by listening either through verbal or non-verbal approach or even both.
Listening is vital when trying to assess your patients, not just by assessing their overall health but also observing their traits, personalities, cultural background and other factors that will aid in your independent and collaborative nursing interventions.
Let them know you’re actively listening through verbal approach by making sincere remarks such as “I understand your concern” or “I hear and understand what you are saying”.
Or through non-verbal approach by utilizing Egan (1988) SOLER techniques. Egan outlined simple techniques to improve communication in the nurse-patient relationship. These techniques can enable the patients to feel more involved and comfortable with you and within the conversation, and these are:
S: Sit Squarely – The bodily direction you display conveys that you are involving yourself with your patient and this is also important in sending the message “I am here with you”.
O: Open Posture – Keep your arms and legs uncrossed in order for your patients to perceive you as non-defensive. However, disinterest in conversation may portray if you don’t keep an open posture.
L: Lean Forward Slightly – It shows that you are involving yourself to what your patient have to say and it demonstrates interest and encourages them to keep the conversation going.
E: Eye Contact – Good eye contact shows genuine interest in the conversation and demonstrates that you are actually listening.
R: Relax – Maintain a proper composure and avoid moving around when your patient is talking to you because a relaxed posture puts the patient at ease.
You must also aware yourself of your gestures and facial expressions because your patients can instantly notice your body language if you are uncomfortable with what’s being discussed in the conversation.
Remember that by listening actively, you’re not agreeing or disagreeing, you’re actually making your patients feel they’re being acknowledged.
3. SHOW EMPATHY / REFLECT
No matter how good your listening skills are, your patients will be the one to tell if you understand them correctly or not. So an extra communication skill to develop aside from listening is the ability to show empathy or reflect your patients’ words and feelings.
To reflect means to put yourself in your patients’ shoes and to show them that you are trying your very best to discover their world as they perceive it and understanding their feelings and what they’re trying to convey regardless of whether you agree with them or not. This is where you drop your ego and judgment to immerse yourself and connect with them.
Begin by interacting with your patient and communicating your purpose or intention. For example, “I can see you are nervous. Help me understand why you are nervous.” or “That is very stressful for you.” When they reply or tell a story, this is where you display a genuine response by communicating your understanding.
4. BE RESPONSIVE
Having the ability to listen and reflect alone are not enough if you’re not being responsive to your patients.
Being responsive is absolutely critical for establishing rapport, a sense of trust and a better nurse-patient relationship.
Respond directly and clearly to your patients, let them know that you are paying attention and eager to answer their queries and offer the necessary care for them.
“What if I am busy providing immediate interventions for my 3 patients and my other one patient who doesn’t need an immediate response is calling my name and asking for non-emergent help?”
It is imperative to keep in mind that no matter how busy you are and what situation you are in, responding to your patients’ needs is still a priority regardless of what kind of needs they may need.
Leadership, delegation, management of care & nursing judgment comes to play when you meet a situation like this. Prioritize your patients and manage the care you are providing to them, delegate a task or ask your colleagues, LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses), or CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) for help to attend to your patient in need.
Because not being responsive is close to neglecting the very essence of nursing which is to respond & provide care; you cannot just simply tell your other one patient that you are too busy.
However, worse case scenario and your situation really requires your patient to wait, at least reply and acknowledged the patient and respond that you will be attending them, always remember to include a time-frame (a time-frame that is realistic and achievable) or you can also endorse a proper person who will be attending them in a few moments.
5. ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
Though excellent listening skills may aid you obtain your needed assessment data, you may also develop comprehensive assessment data (i.e. symptoms and feelings) if combined with proper interviewing skills such as asking your patients open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions are questions that need your patients to explore and elaborate their answer and not just by answering yes or no or just by nodding their head. Asking open-ended question avoids being perceived as judgmental and allows your patients to verbalize what is really on their mind in regards to the subject you are asking.
Example of open-ended question:
“How are you feeling today?”
Example of close-ended question:
“Are you feeling well today?”
6. ALLOW SILENCES
Sometimes allowing silence is also beneficial as it gives the patients time and space they need to engage in the conversation and an opportunity to explore and be able to verbalize their feelings and opinions.
However, you should know the right moment and length of time as when to allow and when to break the silence, if not, your patients may misinterpret you as having lack of interest.
In order to give respect for their moment and exploration of feelings, make sure that your patients are the one to break the silence, you may intervene to break the silence if only necessary and appropriate.
7. REFRAIN FROM USING MEDICAL TERMS
It is vital to recognize that using medical terms to patients with limited health and medical knowledge are at risk for error and poor health outcomes such as trouble understanding medication instructions, informed consent, health education materials, etc.
To prevent these errors and unnecessary outcomes, you should avoid using medical terminologies and jargons as much as possible most especially terms that is not recognizable or doesn’t understand by your patients.
However, if you really need to convey a message using medical words, make sure to explain these terms as simple as possible and easily understood by your patients.
For nurses, communication is really part of the job, and an effective nurse and patient communication can make a big difference and may lead to positive patient outcomes such as a feeling of acknowledgement, sense of trust, sense of safety and security, improved patient satisfaction level, improved nursing assessment, increased recovery rates, decreased medication errors and greater adherence to treatment.