The Importance of Effective Communication in Nursing

A nurse facing the camera
Cheryl Lee
July 15, 2022
1 min read
A nurse facing the camera

In the healthcare system, nurses are absolutely critical to keeping patients happy and satisfied. To be a successful clinical nurse or nurse leader, you will need exceptional communication skills. These skills will have to be used in high-stress situations.

The advantages of effective communication in nursing are often unseen and undervalued. Nurse communication is as much an art as it is a science where it involves fostering connections with patients and utilising tools and technologies to facilitate such connections.

Humans are social beings; and need care from others— especially when at the most vulnerable state. With hospitals typically employing four times as many nurses as doctors, nurses are likely the ones to provide patients with compassion and empathy needed for recovery.

Nurses provide patients with deep intellectual, interpersonal skills at the point of care and beyond. To do so well, they must possess advanced interpersonal skills.

In this case, effective communication in nursing is the exchange of information, thoughts, and feelings among people using speech or other means. The patient can convey their fears and concerns to the nurse; in turn, the nurse will assist in assuaging these feelings and help in making a correct diagnosis. Thus, the ability of nurses to communicate effectively is extremely important.

Additionally, effective communication in nursing is also required to ensure information about medicine or diagnoses is passed along accurately between nurses, doctors, and other stakeholders.

Read on to find out why effective communication in nursing is critical!

Effects of poor communication

Communication is about imparting or exchanging information, thoughts, or ideas. Effective communication in nursing protects patients from potential harm arising from misunderstandings. While communication failures leading to serious harm— such as the wrong medicine being utilised— are rare, even minor mistakes can have serious repercussions.

For example, communication errors between colleagues can result in the incorrect prescription of medicine, or patients taking the wrong dose of the right one. This might end up with potentially fatal outcomes. Poor communication in end-of-shift handover can also result in compromised patient safety if the information is not passed from one nurse to another.

Not to mention, poor communication between nurses and patients could lead to disastrous consequences. Deciding on treatment without full knowledge of the risks, taking the wrong medicine, carrying out the wrong healthcare plan… Need I say more?

All of these risks and consequences are very real. Poor communication can potentially harm patients and the reputation of your hospital. This is why effective communication in nursing is important. Read on for some benefits effective communication can bring you and your institution.

effective communication in nursing
Poor communication can lead to problems such as wrong medication administered; and patients being unaware of their treatment.

Immediate understanding of a patient’s condition and needs

Nurses are the first point of contact with patients. From the initial point of care and triage, and throughout treatment and release; nurses are first, and primary caregivers.

Doctors may be the ones in positions of power, but they do not provide round-the-clock care or specialised attention. Nurses are the ones who apply the physician’s and management prescribed treatment plan and care for patients.

Nurses quickly assess, evaluate, and work to understand a patient’s condition. In nearly every case, nurses are the first and best line of communication regarding patient health to other team members.

With effective communication in nursing, patients will be able to get their illnesses treated promptly and accurately. By communicating effectively, patients will get the care they require and at the highest standard.

The ability and effectiveness of communication is thus critical to providing great care.

Understanding the emotional state of patients

Nurses spend more time with patients than most other caregivers. The amount of personal communication nurses have with patients is important for an in-depth understanding of their physical and mental wellbeing.

The deeper connection nurses have with patients means they may be able to provide a deeper level of care individually.

Effective communication in nursing can allow patients to develop a bond with their nurses, and open up. They will then be able to provide better care and support for both physical and mental aspects.

With a deeper bond, nurses may get to discover undetected key symptoms or illnesses as well. This information can be significant in a patient’s long-term health.

This level of communication can also help them make decisions on appropriate treatment plans and in implementing care protocols with other healthcare professionals.

effective communication in nursing
By forming an emotional bond with your patients, then will you be able to serve them better.

Tracking changes in care

Effective communication in nursing will allow patients to be more willing to share their recovery and opinions on their healthcare plan with their nurses more freely. Healthcare is full of intricacies and requires special attention from providers.

One size does not fit all, and the same applies to healthcare as well. Different patients have different needs, and it is the responsibility of the nurses to understand each patient intimately and tailor the healthcare plan to their needs.

Understanding patient needs and concerns allows nurses to target their healthcare strategies towards specific patient preferences. Some patients might prefer a different type of communication method or healthcare delivery; and with effective communication between both nurses and patients, can we be sure that they are well taken care of.

Doing so also means they can track patient progress regularly, and measure deviations in real-time. When a nurse is a good listener and frequently checks in on their patients, they will be able to reduce both physical and emotional distress.

Advocating for patients

Being a patient advocate essentially means being a person who helps guide a patient through the healthcare system. This role includes a therapeutic relationship and communication between the nurse and patient. As an advocate, patients act as an informer to the patient’s decision-making, standing by the patient and supporting them in making their own decision.

As a nurse, one of the roles taken on is to be a patient advocate. Nurses have the responsibility of bridging communication gaps between the patient, other professionals, and the healthcare system.

When a nurse can identify patient worries, they can help alleviate fears and create a better experience for the patient. Nurses provide reassurance and assistance for the patient. They can help explain a diagnosis or give recommendations on following a treatment plan or to take medications. They also help follow-up with physicians for things such as lab results or critical information.

With effective communication in nursing, can nurses properly advocate for patients. After all, patients come first and nurses need to ensure their comfort and satisfaction. They can only do this by fostering a bond between each other, and communicating effectively.

effective communication in nursing
Nurses need to be patient advocates. With effective communication, then can nurses effectively advocate for the needs and rights of the patient.

Ensures patient safety

Enough about effective communication among nurses and patients. Let us get into the final reason why effective communication in nursing is important: it helps boost patient safety. Effective communication is just as important among nurses as it is among nurses and patients.

Nurses have to communicate well among their colleagues and doctors alike to ensure patient safety. For example, nurses who work in the critical care unit or emergency room. In such environments, it is often extremely high-tension and stressful. At any moment, a victim of say, a hit-and-run could come in, or a patient’s critical levels could suddenly plummet.

Nurses need to learn how to handle such stressful situations while also maintaining the quality of care. Oftentimes, nurses have to switch shifts or pass on constantly changing information about a patient to their colleague. By having effective communication, accurate and reliable information can be passed along to the healthcare team.

Even a small error in communication; such as the wrong dosage of medication or wrong symptoms stated, could result in a potentially fatal yet preventable accident in the hospital. As such, nurses must strive to be effective communicators, in order to handle the stress of working in healthcare, and most importantly, to uphold patient safety.

All in all

Nurse communication goes far beyond just talking to patients and other nurses. Nurses are the front line for communications in hospitals. By developing the right skills, you can enhance every part of your healthcare organisation. Effective communication in nursing can allow your patients to have a better experience in your hospital, and ensure their satisfaction and safety. Your patients will then leave feeling supported both physically and emotionally.

About the author

Besides school and work, Venus spends her free time dancing (she has been a dancer for more than 10 years). She also enjoys spending time just chilling at home and hanging out with her friends.

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