With a necessary focus on technical skills in nursing school, nursing students can’t forget the importance of mastering soft skills.

Nursing students’ days and nights are consumed by learning every technical detail of nursing school, so they can easily neglect the soft skills, like communication and interpersonal skills, that just can’t be learned in a book. But becoming proficient in these will make you a better nurse.

Communication skills are a combination of how you write, what you say, the way you listen, and how you interact with other people. Here are a few ways to boost your communication skills while you are in school.

Observe Closely

An easy way to develop communication skills that will help you become a better nurse and make you a more effective team member is to watch others. Do you notice other nursing students who seem to have a way with people? Do some of your supervisors in your clinicals get along with students while commanding an undeniable respect? If you see people who have traits you like, watch what they do and how they do it. You can also notice people who have traits you don’t like or that appear unprofessional so you can avoid those.

Listen Carefully

Communication isn’t all about what you say. When you interact with others, listen to what they are saying. Whether it is a patient, a professor, a nursing student, or a supervisor, listen carefully to their words before forming your own opinion. People want to be heard and that can only happen when you are listening to them. Don’t interrupt and do hold back on offering your opinion until you know that’s what they are really seeking. You can learn more from listening than from talking.

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Speak Respectfully

Almost as important as what you say is how you say it. Be careful to say what you mean. If you have a request, state it plainly. Don’t assume others will know or should know what you want or need. Try to rise above any previously formed feelings (for instance, if your professor has forgotten a set appointment again) so that your voice remains neutral. You can be irritated, but part of mastering soft skills is learning how to speak in control of each situation.

Write Clearly

Clear written communication takes work and it takes practice. In a professional world (that includes an academic world), certain rules must be followed. Start practicing as a nursing student. When you need to write to someone, use a proper greeting and a proper closing. Triple check to make sure you have spelled names correctly. When writing a note, a memo, or an announcement, use complete sentences and spell out each word. Professional communication is much different from the quick texts we are all so used to. But when you write clearly and professionally, you’re perfecting your communication skills and forming an important cornerstone in your reputation.

Nursing school is an ideal time to practice your communication skills. Ask for feedback from professors, mentors, supervisors, friends, and other students. They can offer great insight to nuances you might not even be aware of. It’s a great start to a career in nursing.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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