January 2, 2015
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
There are many skills and traits nurses need to be successful in the profession. But effective communication is one of the most important skills a nurse can have. Nurses need to communicate well with their patients and their patient’s loved ones. Nurses must also communicate clearly with other medical professionals, such as doctors, technicians and therapists.
Good communication is important in all areas of life from your career to relationships. But for nurses, strong communication skills are critical for the health and well-being of their patients. A breakdown in communication or ineffective communication can have negative consequences for both nurses and their patients. Consider some of the following reasons why nurses must learn to communicate well:
Educational Purposes: Nurses play a big role in educating patients on their disease, treatment and how to care for themselves when they leave the hospital. If nurses do not communicate effectively, it may make it difficult for patients to make the right choices. For example, if you are providing discharge instructions to the patient and you are not clear, it can lead to a lack of understanding. This misunderstanding can cause the patient to may make mistakes with their self-care.
Medical Errors: Poor communication between staff can lead to medical errors and negative health consequences for your patients. For example, a lack of information communicated to a physician or another nurse, can cause them to make the wrong decisions regarding treatment. Not speaking up when you see someone making a mistake or breaking hospital policy can also lead to medical errors.
Misunderstandings between Co-workers: Working well as part of a team is essential for nurses. Part of effective teamwork is good communication. If you are not clear in the message you are trying to get across, your co-workers can misunderstand what you are saying. Misunderstandings can lead to poor patient care and negative feelings among co-workers.
Better Patient Satisfaction: It probably does not come as a surprise, when patients feel they are being listened to, and their concerns heard, they feel they are getting better care. Many times they are correct. Taking the time to listen to your patients and be responsive is a vital part of patient satisfaction.
Be respectful. It is nearly impossible to have effective communication if you are not respectful. If your attitude, words or tone or less than respectful, it creates a barrier. The person you are trying to communicate with may stop hearing what you are saying and become defensive. Nurses are human, and it is possible to become frustrated or upset with a patient of a family member. But if you feel yourself getting angry, take a minute and compose yourself. Keep in mind, it is your job to be professional and respectful at all times.
Keep Cultural differences in mind. Cultural and language differences can be a barrier to good communications. Words can have different meanings in different cultures. In addition, if a patient of family member only gets part of what you are saying, it can change the entire context of your conversation. Use interpreters when needed and be sensitive to cultural differences.
Be aware of non-verbal communication. A lot of communication is non-verbal. Pay attention to eye contact, tone and body language. When you are talking to a patient, you may mean one thing, but your body language and tone can convey a different message. Keep in mind, sometimes a person’s attitude can make a difference in how their words are interpreted.
Honesty is your best bet. Whether you are talking to patients or your co-workers, it is always best to communicate with honestly. Of course, there may be times you would be overstepping your role to discuss everything with your patients. Some information is up to the physician to discuss. But instead of giving a false answer, let the patient know whatever they are asking will have to be answered by their doctor.
Use language your patients can understand. Medical terminology is not always easy to understand. Using the most complex explanation or language can be difficult for anyone to understand unless you have a medical degree. Remember to use language your patients can understand. For instance, if there is a common word for a medical treatment, use it instead of the technical term. Keep in mind, talking in terms someone can understand, is not the same thing as talking down to someone.
Listen to your patients. It is common to forget that listening is a part of good communication. Although you may get busy and have several tasks that need to be completed, nothing replaces listening to your patients. Not only does listening help your patients feel cared about, it allows you the opportunity get the information you need to provide the best medical care possible.
Put yourself in your patient’s shoes. It is easy to get into the habit of rushing through your work day. This may be especially true when you are short staffed or very busy. But imagine yourself in your patient’s shoes and being stuck in the hospital. The old saying “treat someone like you want to be treated” is good advice. Having a nurse who listens to your concerns and communicates well can make a difference in your hospital experience
There are some common barriers to effective communication that nurses should be aware of. For example, not being responsive to your patients can make them feel like they are not being heard. If you cannot responds immediately, let your patient know you will be with them as soon as possible. This lets them know they are not being ignored.
Another barrier to good communication is assuming things. If you are unsure what someone is trying to tell you, don’t assume. Ask for clarification. Additionally, when you assume someone will know what you mean, you are leaving yourself open to being misunderstood. Instead of leaving things open to interruption, say what you mean and avoid any confusion.