Communication is an important part of the nursing profession. As a nurse, you’ll be communicating regularly with doctors, patients, and other nurses. Although it can be a little intimidating talking to other nurses, there are some things you can do to communicate more effectively.
Communication Skills for Nurses
These five tips will help you communicate with your fellow nurses:
Communication Tip #1: Use Good Etiquette
When communicating with other nurses, you always want to use a “please” or a “thank you.” Those two phrases will make things go so much more smoothly during a shift. For example, let’s say that you need a fellow nurse to help you start an IV. It sounds so much better if you ask, “Can you please help me start an IV?” rather than saying, “I need you to help me start an IV.”
When a nurse does something to help you out, be sure to thank him or her. Some healthcare facilities have special “cards” or programs that you can use to recognize other nurses who have helped you during your shift, and those can be a great way to express your gratitude.
In addition, nursing is a team effort, and you’ll want to build relationships with your fellow nurses. When you pass them on your way in, be sure to make eye contact, smile, and ask, “How are you doing today?” This will help you get to know other nurses and build rapport with them.
Furthermore, when you are communicating with other nurses, you’ll want to keep your body language in check. During a busy shift, it can be easy to roll your eyes or sigh when a fellow nurse asks you something or does something to bother you. However, this can easily offend other nurses and cause unnecessary drama. Try to maintain professional or neutral body language, even in those stressful moments. And if you do snap at someone, be sure to apologize once you’ve cooled down.
Communication Tip #2: Learn to Read Body Language
On any given shift, you’ll likely be working with nurses who are having crazy stuff happen. Perhaps they just got chewed out by a family member, or maybe their patient has coded (or is about to code). Those situations are extremely stressful.
Therefore, you’ll want to be able to look at your fellow nurses and read their body language to see if they are stressed out or frustrated, especially before asking for a favor or correcting them on some issue. If you’re going to correct them on some error, it’s even more important to make sure they are in the right mood.
If they do appear frustrated or upset, you might want to ask another nurse or wait until the other nurse has calmed down and regained his or her composure.
Communication Tip #3: Use a Compliment Sandwich When Correcting Nurses
When you have to criticize a fellow nurse, it’s always best to use a compliment sandwich. A compliment sandwich is a technique in which you offer a praise, then a criticism, and then end it with another praise. This is a great way to correct people without hurting their feelings or causing unnecessary conflict.
For example, let’s say that you are precepting a nursing student, and he or she forgot to fill out a section on their check-off list. What you can do is say, “Oh, I’m so glad you remembered to complete your check-off list. However, I noticed that you left a section blank. Could you please fill that out for me? But everything else looks great!”
Another technique you can use is to politely frame a criticism as a question. Instead of saying, “You forgot to use sterile gloves for this procedure,” it sounds so much better if you frame the criticism in the form of a question, “Can we use clean gloves for this procedure, or are we supposed to use sterile gloves?”
In addition, you don’t want to criticize people in a frivolous way. When you graduate nursing school, you’ll probably practice differently as compared to a seasoned nurse who has worked in the profession for decades. As long as that seasoned nurse isn’t breaking major protocol or endangering the patient’s life, it’s probably best to avoid criticizing them.
Communication Tip #4: Clearly Communicate Your Needs
Suppose you are having trouble starting an IV on a patient. Don’t go to the nurses’ station, throw down your chart, and start complaining about it. Other nurses won’t know if you’re venting, asking for help, dropping a hint, or something else.
Instead, directly say to a fellow nurse, “I’m having trouble starting an IV on this patient. Could you please help me start it? If so, I’ll help your patient to the bathroom, do your wound dressing change, or whatever you need.”
Communication Tip #5: Make Sure You Give and Receive a Good Report
The end-of-the-shift nursing report is so important. The nursing report will not only dictate how well your day will flow as the on-coming nurse, but it also affects patient care. When you receive report from the other nurse, be sure to ask the right questions. You want to ask things such as:
- What doctors are on board?
- Why is this patient here?
- What do the patient’s vital signs and labs look like?
- Are there any tests coming up for this patient?
- Is there anything important I need to know about this patient?
Getting a good report will help you provide better patient care and will help you work efficiently (and avoid those unnecessary surprises!).
Next, you want to be making notes throughout your shift on your nursing report sheet for things that you’ll need to tell the on-coming nurse. It’s very important to jot those notes down throughout your shift, as it can be very easy to forget minor details when you have 5-7 patients (or more).
The last thing you want to do is to earn a reputation for being a nurse who gives a sloppy report. When I worked on the floor, I knew that the nurse I was getting report from was either good or bad. And if I received report from a nurse who had a reputation for giving a bad report, I knew that it was going to be a rough shift that would be full of surprises and difficulties.