A nurse’s training takes years of school, years of on-the-job experience, and years of adjusting emotionally to a job that can be as draining as it is exhilarating.

But even if you perform your nursing duties above exception, you still might find the toughest part of your job is communicating with your peers and colleagues. In a career as high-stress and fast-paced as nursing, developing a positive and effective communication style is essential.

If you think your style could use some work, taking steps to improve your communication skills helps in many different ways. People will understand what you’re trying to say faster, and when there’s less friction with others, your job becomes easier. The positive results reduce stress for everyone.

How can you fine-tune your communication style?

Be Aware

Do you know you have a reputation for being difficult or hard to work with? Do you know why? If you’re in charge of a staff of 15 emergency department nurses, you have to be exacting, precise, and demanding and that might come across as tough on people. But lives depend on it. Problems crop up when colleagues see your expectations as unrealistic or your approach as disrespectful.

Lead with Confidence

Effective leaders trust the people who work for them to do their job as expected. Micromanaging employees who have proved to be skilled, dependable, and excellent nurses should be allowed to do their jobs within the established framework. If your need to get involved is overshadowing others’ abilities to do their jobs, look deeper to see if there’s a valid reason. If there is, bring it up and talk about it openly with the employee.

Work Together

Would you want to work with you? Some people joke about being difficult and they know part of the reason is they speak impulsively or are quick to accuse because that’s the way they have always done it. Learning how to state expectations clearly, ask for what you need directly, and speak only to the people you are having trouble with is necessary.

Don’t Assume

Your coworkers are not mind readers. If you are tired of one of your colleagues continually leaving a messy workstation or not being fast enough to respond to a request, your frustrated cold-shoulder treatment isn’t going to help. Communication is a two-way street, so you need to communicate your frustration and give your coworker time to reply. Just because you are unhappy doesn’t mean they know why.

Take Stock of Yourself

When you feel yourself getting defensive or just abrupt or you sense others are reacting negatively to you, take a minute to reassess. What’s your tone like? How is your body positioned? Are your words matching what you’re trying to get across? Taking stock lets you identify triggers. If your voice is getting raised, lower it. Adopt a purposefully neutral physical stance. Listen to what others are saying without interrupting.

Practice Communicating

It might be embarrassing, but ask a couple of trusted coworkers about your strengths and weaknesses in communicating. By giving them a chance to identify both, they will be more likely to share their honest opinions. And don’t get defensive about the bad stuff or too proud of the good stuff. Take it all and figure out how you can use the information to become a better communicator.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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