In healthcare, a tremendous amount of responsibility is given to both nurses and CNAs. Communicating effectively is perhaps the most important. The ability to communicate might not come naturally for all. Actively listening is a must for any healthcare professional, but that’s just the start.
1. Practice Active Listening
Listening is a skill, but not everyone has learned how to do it effectively. And it happens to be extremely important for successful communication, so learning how to listen effectively is essential to proper patient care.
As a nurse or CNA, you often must communicate on behalf of your patients. What are their needs? How can we encourage honest conversations? What nonverbal messages are present?
Active listening starts with you inviting conversation, and then listening to what a patient, nurse, or other coworker is saying. You can practice your listening skills by:
- Asking open-ended questions: Avoid asking a question that could be answered with “yes” or “no.”
- Repeating what you hear: When you repeat back part of what someone says, you’re showing that you’re hearing them.
- Responding to non-verbal communication: Reading body language can be helpful with active listening — if someone isn’t making eye contact, it could be a red flag they aren’t being honest; if someone’s brow is furrowed, they may be nervous or worried and need comfort.
Patience, empathy, and trust will improve with your effort to actively listen. The temperament of your patient has much to do with their ability to heal — by practicing active listening, patients will feel more comfortable and safe in your care.
Also, it’s important to accurately report information that could help the medical team. As a nurse or CNA, you’re likely spending more time with a patient than others, so you could pick up on changes in a patient’s mental or emotional state.
2. Remain Mindful of Nonverbal Cues
Body language, or nonverbal communication, is extremely important to understand in many situations. If the messages we verbalize don’t match the signals being sent with our facial expressions and movements — it is safe to say that our messages will be interpreted incorrectly.
In nursing communication, the ability to read body language can greatly influence the relationship you are able to foster with your patient. It is important to acknowledge that patients and coworkers constantly are partaking of the messages sent. Your interest, engagement, and intentions will be measured according to your nonverbals. Your posture, eye contact, and facial expressions must match the communications you are verbally sending.
A bit of self-awareness can help you match your body language to your messaging, and it will help you pick up on others’ nonverbal cues. For example, if your tone is gentle, your touch shouldn’t be aggressive or harsh. When a patient is talking, avoid crossing your arms across your chest — this can be seen as a sign that you’re closed off.
Last but not least, be sure to focus on offering an open front. If we are turned, antsy, or distracted one might assume that we are too busy or needed elsewhere. You are able to communicate more effectively if your body presents an open stance — ready and willing to receive incoming messages.
3. Communicate Clearly
Sometimes it seems that all you do during a shift is pass messages — from patient to nurse or doctor, and back to the patient. Whether you are on the sending or receiving end, it’s important to use clear communication. A patient or loved ones are likely to ask questions and share concerns with you. To prevent unnecessary stress or confusion, you’ll want to be sure to communicate clearly.
- Create a foundation: Let your patient or their family know who they are talking to. If you are able, use first names. This helps them relate and establish a feeling of comfort and trust.
- Encourage open communication: Offer time for the receiver to ask questions or react to your message. Strive to read body language. Is the individual tensing up, looking down, or crossing their arms? If so, take time to offer comfort by repeating your message in another way or confirming they understand by asking a question. For example: What other questions do you have? What can I clarify?
- Modify how you speak: The tone and speed of your message can change based on the communication you are sending. There are various reasons a patient may need you to slow your speech or raise the volume of your voice.
- Be direct: It isn’t always easy to be direct with communication, especially if it’s a difficult subject for the one receiving the information, but it is generally necessary. As a nurse, you don’t want patients or family members to have to guess what you are thinking. If there are certain restrictions or rules, communicate these clearly and in a direct manner for the health and safety of your patient.
At the end of the day, communicating effectively will play an instrumental role in your job. As information is passed between doctors, patients, coworkers, and family members, the responsibility to correctly relay and interpret routinely falls on the nurse. Providing the best care possible as a nurse cannot happen without effective communication. While your formal training might have introduced you to the idea of communicating in your career, practice will aid you in your efforts to improve.