An important aspect of being a nurse is to have effective communication skills. It is also one of the foundations of nursing care that has a huge impact on patients. Some have the mistaken impression that “communication skills” are just “what we say. Excellent communication is so much more.. In fact, good communication skills are based on the fundamentals of establishing excellent rapport, building two-way channels and using various modes of communication effectively.

Establishing Rapport
  • Cultural Awareness for your patients’ context
  • Compassion and Empathy for patient feelings
  • Building trust by making personal connections at a human level
Building two-way channels
  • Active Listening
  • Offering Patient Education, particularly in response to questions
  • Asking probing questions
  • Giving plenty of time for questions
Fully utilizing modes of communication
  • Verbal communication: what is being said
  • Non-verbal communication: this includes facial expressions, body language, hand gestures, eye contact, and physical distance between a nurse and the patient.
  • Written communication via text, email, or better secure HIPAA compliant app
  • Presentation skills for communicating concepts to groups
Effective nurse-patient communication is shown to improve quality of care, patient outcomes, and most importantly, a nurse-patient relationship which can directly impact patient satisfaction in a person-centered care approach. According to the book, Interpersonal Relationships: Professional Communication for Nurses by Arnold and Boggs, having a communication competency is a primary way to established, trust and a collaborative relationship with patients and families. Effective nurse-patient communication is not as easy as it sounds; in fact, it is very challenging for nurses and calls for more than skills and experience.

Break all communication barriers in healthcare with Hucu.ai

Principles of Improving Nurse-Patient Communication

Prioritize Patients

It is necessary to give priority to your patients. Putting a patient first can shift the mindset with which care is being provided. Effective communication with patients begins with taking the time out to introduce yourself and telling them exactly how you will take care of them. Using non-verbal cues such as a smile, calm voice and a warm, welcoming tone will provide comfort to the patient. Showing respect to patients and looking at them from a person-centered care lens will help you build a connection with the patient and help him feel more comfortable under your care. This approach is successful in making patients feel cared for.

Active Listening

A nurse has to be an active listener when communicating with the patient. It requires the nurse to listen with full attention to the speaker to get the intent and feeling. A part of active listening is to pay full attention to the speaker and to let them finish without interrupting them or judging them for what they are saying. Taking time out to understand the concerns of patients can help a nurse be more prepared to address problems and issues as they arise and achieve better patient outcomes. The second aspect of active listening is to paraphrase what has been said and repeat it while maintaining eye contact so that the patient knows you’ve been listening carefully. The third aspect of active listening is to grasp non-verbal cues like eye contact, gestures, body language, and expressions. These help a nurse connect with the patient and build trust as well as elevate the level of comfort over time. Additionally, patients who have established an understanding with the nurse will be more willing to disclose the true extent of their symptoms. Balancing time “telling” with time “asking/listening” is critical.

Speak from the Heart

A nurse should talk with his/her heart. Patient communication requires a lot of time and therefore, frankness and honesty play a role in effective communication in this duration. To increase the effectiveness of communication, nurses have to have a sincere intention to truly understand a patient’s concerns and reply with kindness. One way to do this is to ask patients open-ended questions so that they can express themselves fully. Speaking slowly and using layman language for medical terms can also help in relaxing the patient and creating a better understanding of the situation. If the patient is having a hard time understanding information or instructions, a nurse has to modify or clarify the information until the patient understands. For this reason, using presentation materials like pictures or handouts can complement verbal communication.
Otherwise, poor communication or lack of it can lead to patients misunderstanding directions and failing to follow the treatment steps. This can result in workflow breakdown for the medical team and increase the chances of medical errors. Did you know that a report by Joint Commission* found out that poor communication during patient transfers led to 80% of serious medical errors? With the available technology (phone), effective communication skills, and a healthcare text messaging application like Hucu.ai, that can be avoided.

Hucu.ai Facilitates Communication During Patient Transfers.

When patients are being transferred from post-acute care to a nursing facility, current care teams have to hand over the patient’s profile, medical condition report and relay important information related to the patient’s new care team. If any information is missed or communicated wrongly, it can have serious consequences for the patient. This is where Hucu.ai can help.
Hucu.ai is a HIPAA compliant, text messaging application built for the healthcare industry. It facilitates communication between care teams, nurses, patients, families, and all healthcare members involved with just a tap on the phone. Bringing all members of the care team in one digital ‘channel’ and sharing important documents, facts, and information regarding the patient transfer reduces the chances of error. Real-time notifications and the capability to reach out to any team member from anywhere anytime can drastically reduce delays in patient care leading to better patient outcomes.

Establish Personal Connections

In a person-centered care approach, it is critical to know the person behind the patient. What are his likes or dislikes? What makes him comfortable? What are his pet peeves? This can help in making the patient feel safer and more comfortable. Creating such personal connections with patients can improve patient outcomes. A nurse can achieve this by spending extra minutes every day and getting to know them, trying to exchange fun facts about each other, and showing genuine interest in their life story.

Cultural Knowledge

A nurse is likely to work with patients from different social and cultural backgrounds. It is important to be aware of cultural differences and be sensitive and respectful towards them. For example, if a patient is not fluent in English, it will be a good idea to bring a translator when necessary. Similarly, with trans or gender non-binary patients, a nurse can take care in using their preferred name and pronouns.
Effective nurse-patient communication is a life-long skill and can impact the quality of care a patient receives.
*The Joint Commission, “Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare Releases Targeted Solutions Tool for Hand-Off Communications,” August 2012, Volume 32, Issue 8, 2019.
Sources of Information: usa.edu, minoritynurse.com
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