Nursing speaking with patient | Communication in nursing

Is Your Communication in Nursing Effective?

As a nurse, do you periodically check-in and assess how your communication skills are doing? 

You learned about the importance of communication in nursing school, and those skills are used with team members, patients, and many other individuals on a daily basis. However, as is the case with many tools, it’s easy for sharp skills to become a little dull over time.

When you were a new nurse, you couldn’t wait to chart like you had learned to, speak with your patients in the most endearing ways, and be an integral team player with others. Now, as a seasoned nurse, you might find yourself frustrated with patient situations, too busy to chart as thoroughly as you used to, and less eager to jump in as a team player each day.

To ensure your communication in nursing stays effective, it’s important to routinely review how your skills are performing. Let’s take a look at the top skills for effective communication in nursing. 

Top Skills for Effective Communication in Nursing

Effective communication in nursing is critical for facilities and teams to successfully deliver quality patient care. 

Verbal Communication

Spoken words that are paired with clear and complete sentences are vital in a healthcare context. Professional tone is important to consider as every patient and team member deserves to be spoken to with respect and kindness.

When speaking to patients, your choice of words are essential to avoid the patient getting lost in the midst of all the medical jargon.

What do you notice about the responses you receive from others based on your verbal communication? Is it effective? Do you communicate the message as intended?

Non-Verbal Communication

Much of your communication can be delivered with means other than words. Did you know that when words and non-verbal cues conflict, patients are likely to engage more with the non-verbal message? That’s why non-verbal communication is so critical!

Go through each of these non-verbal cues and assess what yours look like on a daily basis during your shifts.

  • Body language – Pausing and facing the person 
  • Facial expressions – A friendly smile
  • Gestures – Nodding your head to indicate understanding
  • Posture – Open stance and leaning forward to show you’re engaged
  • Physical barriers – Opening up the space 
  • Appropriate eye contact

Is your non-verbal communication positively impacting your patients and coworkers?


Concise written communication that is well formatted and easy to understand is essential. Accurate and current records that are legible and documented fully are best practice.

Are you using up-to-date abbreviations and terminology? Written information needs to be understood on paper without the need to clarify over conversation.

What can you do to make your written communication more thorough? Many nurses strive to make notes during or immediately after a patient so as not to forget anything. 

Everyone knows that a doctor’s handwriting can be tough to read at times, so you have a chance to help bridge the gap in communication!

Active Listening

Active listening is listening to understand, and is vital to clearly and correctly interpreting the perspective of patients and others. 

This requires undivided attention and using techniques such as repeating back what you hear from the patient or coworker, as well as clarifying when you’re unsure what you’re hearing. The goal is for the person to feel satisfied and confident that you understand them and their concerns.

Are you demonstrating active listening that leaves patients and coworkers without any doubts or misunderstandings?

Compassion and Empathy

Sending the message that you genuinely care, builds rapport and trust. Creating a safe environment allows for a more positive experience for patients to open up and take part in their healing. 

It’s not always easy during hectic shifts, but it’s a valuable skill especially when so many nurses are at risk for compassion fatigue. 

It’s also important to treat coworkers with kindness because when the entire team feels cared for, it’s easier for everyone to work together.

Do you show interest in both patients and team members? Do you make extra time to get to know them?


It’s essential to be able to explain and teach as a nurse. Teaching never stops, as it’s part of your role when communicating with patients, families, younger nurses, and new team members. 

Think of all the health conditions, treatments, test results, care plans, medications, and so on that need to be described, interpreted, and understood.

Thorough education is collaborative in nursing. Ask questions, explain medical terminology in simple words, have others repeat back to you what they heard.

Teaching is at the core of nursing. What have your teaching experiences been like?

Overall, it can be difficult for nurses to find enough time to focus on the communication aspect of their role all while juggling heavy job demands. However, working towards small changes and adding in these communication skills where you can, can make a big difference!

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