To be a successful healthcare practitioner, clinical nurse, or nursing leader, you must have excellent communication skills that you can employ in high-stress settings. Collaboration with other nurses and colleagues from various disciplines requires excellent communication skills. It is also critical to patient-centered care. Nurses who take the time to listen to and understand their patients’ concerns are better equipped to address problems as they emerge, resulting in better patient outcomes. On the other hand, poor communication, or a lack of communication in healthcare, can lead to patients misinterpreting directives and failing to follow treatment protocols. It can also lead to team workflow problems, resulting in a medical error.
As frontline healthcare workers, nurses rely on communication in all parts of their jobs. Good verbal and written communication skills are essential for improving health outcomes, building relationships with coworkers, patients and families, and navigating difficult situations. In addition, developing the communication abilities and cross-cultural competencies required to engage with varied groups of coworkers, families and patients are part of advancing in nursing. Here are ten ways to improve your communication skills and deliver better care as a nurse.
How to improve your communications skills
Being an excellent communicator entails the ability to actively listen and convey yourself clearly to others. Regrettably, no single skill or practice will enhance your communication abilities. Instead, successful communication requires a vast range of skills, which include verbal and nonverbal communication cues and close listening. Here are the core elements which make up that skillset and will ultimately lead to improved communication:
Individuals want to know that their concerns are being addressed. Instead of drafting your reaction, truly listen to what the other person is saying. To avoid misconceptions, seek clarification. The person speaking to you should be the most critical in your life at that time. Another crucial tip to remember is to have one discussion at a time. This means that if you’re on the phone, don’t answer an email or send a text at the same time. The other person will notice that they do not have your full attention.
The most crucial aspect of communication is word choice. When it comes to wording, less is more. Clarity and, when feasible, brevity are the keys to powerful and convincing communication, whether written or spoken. Define your goals and your audience before engaging in any communication.
Outlining thoroughly and explicitly what you want to say and why will help guarantee that you include all the necessary information. It will also assist you in eliminating extraneous elements. Eliminate superfluous words and flowery language, which can detract from your point. While repetition may be necessary for some circumstances, do it with caution and sparingly. Repeating your message ensures it is received, but too much repetition can cause your audience to tune you out completely.
Make eye contact
Few indicators provide as much feedback as eye contact when it comes to determining whether your message is being received. You can quickly determine if the person you’re conversing with understands you, is busy, worried or puzzled – much of which is lost in digital communication.
Be mindful of your body language
You tell your colleague you’re open to talking while crossing your arms; you say you’re listening but have yet to look up from your phone. Our nonverbal hints frequently disclose more than we realize. Remember that you’re continuously communicating even when you’re not saying anything, whether it’s how you make eye contact or carry yourself during a video meeting. One unusual method for tapping into your body for improved communication? Consider your toes. If you need to increase your confidence before a big presentation, strike a power posture. Alternatively, learn to understand other people’s body language to respond correctly.
Be confident in your ability to contribute meaningfully to discussions. Spend time each day becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings so that you may effectively communicate them to others. People who are hesitant to speak because they do not believe their contribution is valuable need not be concerned. What is helpful or worthwhile to one individual may not be to another, and vice versa.
Understanding what people are looking for is crucial, but it’s also necessary to convey your requirements. Nobody will ever find out until you tell them, right? This communication ability is especially vital if you are a leader, because what you say sets the tone for the rest of your team to follow. If you communicate openly and honestly, you create an excellent example for others to follow. They’ll be more willing to cooperate with people, compromise when required and confront challenging situations with an open mind and confidence that everything will work out.
Record a few communications and analyze areas for growth when working on a group project, giving a speech or simply speaking with others. Identifying areas for improvement is a helpful first step towards establishing a baseline for skill growth. For example, examine your word pronunciation, enunciation and the rate at which you speak to see if your audience can comprehend you. Next, list the areas in which you believe you are proficient and those in which you wish to improve your communication skills.
Receiving honest feedback from peers, managers and team members is crucial to becoming a better communicator, as with other skills. If you consistently ask for input, others will assist you in identifying areas for development that you might have missed otherwise.
Improve your stress management
In modest doses, stress may be very beneficial and motivating at work; however, when stress becomes chronic and entirely takes effect, it can impair communication, clarity of thought and lead to inappropriate behaviors and actions. When stressed, you may misinterpret others, send confused nonverbal messages and exhibit odd behavior patterns. For example, how often have you been overwhelmed during conversations with friends or colleagues and then said or did something you later regretted? Not only will you avoid these later regrets if you improve your stress management skills, but you will also be better able to influence people with whom you disagree.
Summarize your conversation
Summarize what the patient says throughout the consultation, not just at the end. Asking the patient if you’ve correctly understood the essential aspects of their story demonstrates that you’re paying attention and care about getting it right.
Before writing anything or preparing for presentations, interviews or meetings, ask yourself: ‘What am I trying to achieve?’ This is a great place to start in developing communication skills. Every kind of communication serves a purpose. For example, it could be to educate, enlighten, warn, entertain, influence, or persuade. There are instances when more than one purpose is at work. Concentrating on the result can help you frame and deliver your message more effectively. You can also compare the outcome to your original goal to identify ways to improve your communication skills.
Types of communication
Your communication abilities will be classified into four types. Let’s take a closer look at each of these areas:
Written – Written communication abilities refer to the ability to compose messages in writing. Writing is a fundamental means of healthcare communication as it conveys precise instructions and information and relays comments or thoughts. In addition, these abilities enable you to compose lengthy or complex communications that all receivers can read and comprehend, so written communication abilities are required for both internal and external communications.
Verbal – Many of us convey knowledge in the workplace by communicating verbally. This might be informal, such as discussing a forthcoming deliverable with coworkers, or more formal, such as meeting with your boss to discuss your performance. Listening carefully to what others are saying is also a crucial aspect of verbal communication.
Nonverbal – A large portion of each message is communicated nonverbally. According to some estimates, this accounts for up to 80% of all communication. This means it is critical to study and comprehend nonverbal communication, especially when it is absent or diminished, as when communicating in writing or over the phone. Nonverbal communication is sometimes confused with body language, but it encompasses much more. It includes bodily movement, eye contact, facial emotion, posture, speech tone and pitch, and even physiological changes such as sweating. This means you can better understand others by paying close attention to their nonverbal signals. You can also improve the clarity of your message by being consistent with your words and body language.
Visual – It is critical to employ visual communication only when essential. A presentation with visual aids that do not add to the material is disorganized, unprofessional and will detract from the overall message. You want to be careful about what you include and why. Make sure you’re using the correct chart to illustrate the data in the most precise way possible or that you’re only using sketches to help the audience understand the ideas you’re trying to convey. Although not everyone is a graphic designer, there are tools available to assist us in producing professional-looking visuals.
Why are communication skills essential for nurses?
Nursing communication skills include the ability to write and talk clearly and convincingly when engaging with patients, families, doctors and clinic personnel. Communication skills are required for nurses to work in teams and provide appropriate medical treatment. Nurses inform patients about diagnoses, prevention, prognosis, treatments and rehabilitation. They also help create accurate health records and condition descriptions for patients. Some nursing programs encourage aspiring nurses to attend communication and interpersonal skills classes as part of their training and education.
A family nurse practitioner (FNP) program is a prime example of this. Family nurse practitioners must be able to communicate professionally with medical staff. They must also be able to interact effectively with patients. It is critical to be able to present facts clearly and sensitively. Strong written communication skills are also required to ensure the accuracy of patient records.
As the United States is currently experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians due to insufficient family doctors to fulfill demand, the country needs to find a solution. Fortunately, family nurse practitioners are filling this need. They play an essential role in addressing the primary care shortfall by developing the same lifelong relationships with their patients that family physicians do and deliver similar health advice and care. This is why the government is trying to boost enrolment in these programs in areas such as Texas, New York and Florida. You will find some of the best FNP online programs Texas has to offer, such as those offered by Texas Women’s University, being promoted vigorously. As one of the nation’s top nursing graduate programs, this online program helps BSN-prepared nurses prepare for board certification as family nurse practitioners.
Whether working as a staff nurse or as a family nurse practitioner, communication skills can have an impact on the relationships you develop at work. Here are some of the reasons why practicing effective communication is critical for all nurses:
Improves patient outcomes
Failures in either area can harm patients. Excellent teamwork and good communication are essential for patient safety. Poor patient outcomes and safety events are frequently associated with communication breakdowns and lack of cooperation, leading to patient harm, complaints, negligence and malpractice lawsuits. One of the most common communication breakdowns occurs during shift handovers when patient information is not adequately relayed to those taking over a patient’s care.
Helps to build treatment plans
Due to the fact that nurses spend more time with patients than most other caregivers, personal communication with patients is critical for understanding the patient’s physical and emotional wellbeing. When nurses communicate with patients, they can provide a higher degree of care to each individual. This granular data can substantially impact a patient’s long-term health. This degree of communication can also assist them in making judgments about appropriate treatment strategies and implementing care procedures with other healthcare providers.
Helps avoid lawsuits
With recent technological improvements, nurses must now keep electronic medical records. As a result, nurses must accurately document patient records and treatment plans, which may be helpful in cases of insurance denial or malpractice litigation. Nurses who have attended communication skills courses often have a unique advantage on the job. Students should examine different communication approaches and try them both in the classroom and clinical settings. Nurse-patient interactions must always be handled cautiously. Trainees must learn to apply their newly acquired abilities to various environments. Nurses, for example, should avoid communicating in jargon and instead express difficulties in plain language that the patient understands.
Nurses are frequently the first providers to communicate with patients. The information nurses gather is subsequently shared with doctors and other clinicians along the care continuum. The duties of a nurse vary depending on the environment or healthcare system. Nurses are typically responsible for educating patients about medical issues, treatment plans, drugs and follow-up care.
Builds patient trust
Patients will be more eager to share their recoveries and thoughts on their healthcare plan with their nurses if communication in nursing is effective. Healthcare is complicated and necessitates specific attention from providers. One size does not fit all; the same is true in healthcare. Various patients have varied demands, and nurses must understand each patient thoroughly and personalize the treatment plan to their specific requirements. Knowing the wants and concerns of patients enables nurses to tailor their planned care to unique patient preferences. In addition, some patients may choose a different communication strategy or manner of healthcare delivery. With efficient communication between nurses and patients, we can be confident they are adequately cared for.
Communication is critical in nursing for patient safety, health and wellbeing. It is the role of nurses to foster dialogue because they are at the center of patient care. Nurses must improve their communication skills as they take on increasingly complex tasks and care for older and more culturally diverse populations. Serious blunders that could cost patients their lives can occur without effective communication skills.
Communication is the most effective tool for healthcare personnel when working in a stressful setting or environment. You can improve overall patient care and your work life by communicating effectively. Start honing your communication skills now and remember it’s always possible to improve them. There will always be opportunities to learn and grow for your benefit and the benefit of those around you.