Effective communication is one of the foundations of good nursing care. The honest forms of nurse-patient communication include verbal and non-verbal communication (e.g., body language, facial expression, gestures, and distance between you and your patients). Effective nurse-patient communication can improve quality of care, clinical outcomes, and a nurse-patient relationship that enhances patient satisfaction. However, effective nurse-patient communication is the biggest challenge for nurses and requires much more than experience and skills.
Here are 3 principles you should follow to help you improve your communication skills with patients.
1. Always put the patients first.
Putting patients first takes a shift of mind. Start your conversation with the patients by taking the time to introduce yourself and tell them how you are going to take care of them. Smile and use a calm and welcoming voice. Provide comfort when they need to be comforted. Always show respect to your patients. Understanding who the patients are as individuals will help the nurse connect with them and will make the patients feel more comfortable while receiving care and treatment. These approaches can make the patients feel really cared for and can improve relationships.
2. Practice active listening.
Active listening is an important part of communication and requires listening for the content, intent, and feeling of the speaker. Active listening involves paying attention to what the patients say and allowing them to finish without judgement and interruption. Paraphrasing or echoing back to them what they have just said, and maintaining eye contact are also key elements of active listening. Lastly, pay attention to their non-verbal clues, such as facial expression, gestures, and eye contact. These skills can improve patient satisfaction and build trust over time.
3. Talk with heart.
Communicating with patients requires ample time. Honesty and frankness are important parts of effective communication between nurses and patients. To achieve effective nurse-patient communication, nurses need to have a sincere intention to understand what concerns their patients have and show them their kindness and courtesy. Acknowledge the patients’ attitudes and tune into their feelings. Always ask patients open-ended questions, speak slowly, and use simpler, non-medical language. If the patient has difficulty understanding the information, you need to clarify or modify the information or instructions until the patient gets it. You may consider using written materials such as handouts, notes, or pictures to demonstrate what you are saying.
The Patient Self-Determination Act, passed by Congress in 1991, requires hospitals, nursing homes, and other health facilities to provide information about advance directives to patients and to keep a record of any completed documents. An advance directive is a legal document outlining a patient’s preferences for treatment at the end of life. It allows patients to name a person (“agent”) to decide for them if they are unable to decide. As the population of older Americans is increasing, one in five Americans will be over age 65 by 2030 and a life-threatening situation such as cardiac or respiratory arrest can occur at any time. Nurses need to take an active role in educating patients about the different types of advance directives and must talk with their patients and families in terms of their goals of care and preferences for end-of-life care to ensure that patients’ wishes for care at the end of life are known and respected.
Here are three tips to help you integrate them into your daily practice.
1. Review and verify the patient’s advance directive status at his or her first patient contact.
Nurses can help patients explore treatment options and prepare them to participate and discuss with physicians in making the best possible option based on their preferences.
2. Assess the patient’s educational needs.
Patients must be provided with complete information about advance directives and have the opportunity to discuss all of their alternatives and options. Having sufficient knowledge will enable patients to make sound and knowledgeable decisions about their own advance directives. Their education should also include the benefits and risks associated with their choices. It is important for nurses to understand their workplace policy and procedures about advance directives and take any available education about advance directives to increase their knowledge.
3. Advocate for your patients’ decision representing what is best for them.
Nurses have an important role to promote their patients’ decision concerning the treatment or withdrawal of medical care and completion of advance directives. Understanding the options available to the patient can help nurses confidently and purposefully address their patients’ needs. It is imperative that nurses are knowledgeable about their state and federal laws related to end-of-life care and are able to answer the patient’s questions concerning different types of advance directives.
There is an increasing demand for new nurse leaders because of a growing number of retiring nurses and a complex health care delivery system. This high demand for nurse leaders brings an opportunity for young nurses to move up to a leadership role; however, the transition from staff nurse to nurse leader involves developing a wide range of skills. Here are four essential skills that every nurse needs to ensure a smooth transition into a leadership role.
1. Effective communication
It is important that you improve your communication, both verbal and non-verbal, as well as your listening skills. A great nurse leader needs to clearly communicate his or her ideas, visions, goals, and expectations to staff nurses and others as well as understand what other people are communicating.
2. Critical thinking
A great nurse leader needs to be able to think objectively and critically as well as utilize critical thinking ability at every level. Critical thinking is utmost to a leader’s success, especially in today’s complex health care environment. Having an optimistic attitude is also important as this will help to motivate other staff nurses in a positive way.
3. Time management
A great nurse leader needs to effectively manage time and fulfill his or her tasks and obligations. As a nurse leader, you cannot avoid the added responsibilities and demands, but without time management skills, it will be difficult to transition into your leadership role.
4. Conflict management
A great nurse leader needs to properly manage conflicts in the workplace. You should have the ability to recognize and address problems quickly. Stress disappears, staff feels more motivated, and the workplace becomes a much better place to work as a result of conflict management.
To become a great nurse leader, continually strive to improve these four essential skills and never stop learning.
Nowadays, nurses are increasingly working with patients from different cultural backgrounds. This brings opportunities and challenges for nurses to deliver culturally competent services. Whether working at a hospital, in a nursing home, or within a school, nurses must have the ability to identify differences in others. It is expected that nurses understand patients’ differences in demographics, beliefs, norms, practices, and desires for medical care and take their perspectives into account when caring for them. Cultural competence is an important component of excellence in health care delivery and can contribute to the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities.
Here are 5 ways to help you provide culturally competent nursing care.
1. Perform a cultural competence self-assessment.
Determining your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to working with people who come from different cultures is probably one of the most important ways to help improve your cultural competence. Several organizations offer free cultural competence self-assessment tools and you can choose one that appropriate to your work.
2. Obtain a certificate in cultural competence.
You can increase your cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills through culturally competent training, a workshop, or a seminar. Journal articles, textbooks, and the internet also offer great information that can help you improve cultural competence.
3. Improve communication and language barriers.
The values, beliefs, and worldview of a particular cultural group are rooted within their language use; therefore, language is the key to accessing a culture. It is best if you can speak its language or find a translator (an individual providing language assistance) to help communicate with limited English proficiency patients. You also can use pictures, gestures, or written summaries to improve communication with your patients and reduce language barriers.
4. Directly engage in cross-cultural interactions with patients.
Understanding that each patient is a unique person can help nurses effectively interact with patients. Nurses need to have the ability to explore patients’ beliefs, values, and needs in order to build effective relationships with them.
5. Participate in online chats and networks.
Online networking and social media can have a great influence on improving nurses’ perceived cultural competency and cultural awareness and keeping them up-to-date on cultural competency issues.
Working in health care can be emotionally demanding and stressful. Not only do nurses normalize their own emotional reactions to practice, but they also ease the fear and distress of their patients. Research shows that early career nurses are likely to react more negatively to the emotional demands of practice and are at higher risk of stress, emotional exhaustion, and burnout.
Emotional health is an important part of life. It allows us to work productively and cope with our daily job stress. Here are 5 tips to help new nurses manage the emotional demands of the job.
1. Take care of your physical health.
This is probably one of the most important ways to take care of both your body and mind. Your physical health can greatly affect your emotional health. Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep. Improving your physical health can positively impact your emotions on a large scale.
2. Focus on mastering your skills.
It is important that you focus on improving your ability to perform all nursing care and administrative skills independently. These skills will increase your confidence at work and promote satisfaction within your new role.
3. Practice resilience.
Resilience is the ability to overcome challenges quickly and effectively in order to move forward in life. Try to build positive beliefs in your abilities. Becoming more confident in your own abilities, including your ability to respond to and deal with new job environment, is a great way to build resilience for the future. Being resilient will increase your ability to perform under pressure and can affect the way that you view life and its challenges.
4. Practice deep breathing exercises.
Deep breathing exercises have been proven as an effective coping skill. They can help relieve emotional stress and anxiety on the job, improve your mood, and allow you to not to hold onto things that are out of your control.
5. Find a mentor or an experienced nurse who is a positive role model.
Having someone you can reach out to for guidance will help you properly manage the demands of your work and hopefully help you avoid burnout. Recognizing your emotions and expressing them properly can reduce emotional tension and emotional problems.