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Effective nurse-patient communication: Another strategy in care

It cannot be understood that a nurse is not able to give truthful and correct information to their patients, therefore some of the most important concepts for the realization of appropriate and effective communication techniques should be reviewed and updated.

Always be prepared

Most nurses believe that they are able to provide medical information at the moment they face the patient, but experts believe that one’s own predisposition can have an impact on the outcome of the interaction. Therefore, it is best to prepare for an optimal encounter. We need to think ahead of time that we are going to give the patient all the attention they need and that they are really going to be listened to before we answer them.

One of our best tools as nurses is interpersonal communication with patients.

It is also extremely important that we set the stage for interaction, that we look for places of intimacy and comfort to talk to the patient and/or families, without forgetting basic courtesies such as knocking on the door before entering.

Health communication experts suggest certain resources to foster empathy at the beginning of the interview such as:

Communicate to the patient who you are, what you do and who the team members are.

Recognize the patient by name and know what they prefer to be called.

Being close with the patient, giving confidence.

Make eye contact with the patient.

Be aware of their body language and the subconscious meaning of it.

Whenever possible, reassure the patient through the power of touch.

Repeat back what the patient has said and asked me to ensure my understanding of his or her question or request.

Involve family members present, recognizing their important role in the patient’s care.

We must remember that the goal of the patient meeting is to provide information to the patient and to confirm understanding of that information afterwards. One strategy to achieve greater understanding is to explain information slowly and in small doses, giving patients enough time to process the information. Gently ask the patient what he or she understood during the conversation. If the purpose of the interaction is to do health education, include empowering patients to be the primary doers in their care, giving them access to all the information about their disease process.

The power of the gaze and touch

Nursing should not forget nonverbal communication. In fact, sometimes it is not so important what is said to a patient, but how it is said. That is why facial expression, eye contact, smile, gestures, posture, tone of voice, are determining factors when it comes to promoting good nurse-patient intercommunication.

The gaze and physical contact are elements of great importance in nonverbal communication, since they provide a great deal of information. It fulfills a series of functions, among which we highlight that of providing information to the nurse about how the information is arriving. Maintaining eye contact with the patient conveys interest in him and what he is telling us.

Sometimes it is not so important what you say to a patient, but how you say it.

However, we must be aware that different cultures may view direct eye contact or physical contact very differently. In European and American culture, direct eye contact usually indicates that the nurse is focused on the speaker, however, in other cultures, that same eye contact may be perceived as a challenge to one’s authority, disrespect, etc. Also personal space can be influenced by culture, age, emotional state, or life experiences. When someone’s personal space is violated, they may feel insecure, fearful, have mixed feelings, or angry and therefore will not communicate openly with the nurse.

Be aware of our body language

We must ensure that our words, which affirm a desire to help the patient, match our body language. A brief smile during the interview is an appropriate strategy for all cultures. Common nonverbal communication barriers to avoid are sighing, rolling of the eyes, tightly crossed arms, hasty and jerky movements when we are performing patient care, and asking the patient if he or she needs any additional care when we are already leaving the room. These nonverbal signs of communication convey that we lack the time or desire to provide quality patient care.

Communication is one of our best tools to be able to provide quality patient-centered care. Nurses need to be aware of the barriers to effective communication, as well as the new challenges of culturally sensitive care that can become an opportunity to grow in our profession rather than a problem.

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