A Reflective Summary on Professional Communication Skills
As Applied in the Nursing Profession
We let other people know, in the same way they let us know, about what and how one thinks, feels, needs and wants through communication.
Each one of us, as we engage in a communication process, is both a sender of a message and a receiver, too. The messages we convey go through the process of encoding (as we send the message) and decoding (as we receive the message).
Encoding involves, among others, the careful selection of words, the tone to use to ensure that our messages will be received well and understood. Decoding, on the other hand, is the process by which we ensure that we accurately receive the message intended for us so we may be able to give our precise feedback to the sender.
The whole communication process is completed through the use of a channel of communication—be it verbal or non-verbal, face-to-face or written or through various media available to everyone in this day and age.
Although the current state of technology today provides a broad spectrum of media available to communicate, problems on communication still come up at every stage of the communication process stated above. The potential for misunderstanding and confusion between the message sender and the receiver still exists.
It is therefore imperative that one has to be an effective communicator to be able to relay one’s message across without, or at least lessen the misunderstanding and confusion. One has to be able to practice how to encode and decode messages in a clear, concise and accurate manner. Here lies the importance of learning and understanding and applying communication skills.
Among those in the nursing profession, communication skills is very important.
The hospital setting, where people’s lives are involved, is a difficult situation to handle. It is for the benefit of all those involved in this kind of setting that one develops the necessary communication skills to be able to deal with effectively the various situations that arise in the hospital. It is of utmost importance because those working in the hospital directly deal with the lives of patients.
For a nurse, effective communication skills is deemed important because they are in the frontline of dealing with the patients. They also serve as the go-between the patients and their doctors. The nurse likewise deals with other nurses and several other co-health workers.
In all these job-related relationships, the nurse is required to be exact, accurate in her professional communication skills because a flaw in the transmission of messages could be translated into a wrong medical prescription, a wrong dosage in drugs, and a host of other things which could mean the life of a patient. The failure to engage in proper communication may not only lead to problems with the nurse-patient relationship but also to a loss of professional credibility. Here one has to ensure that the facts and other relevant data to a patient’s case are clear.
A few simple but very relevant example of communicating effectively to the patient is the ability to translate into simple words the medical terms used to describe diseases and conditions.
On the other hand, the nurse, in a therapeutic relationship, deals with the feelings of his/her patients. Thus, it is necessary that he/she is also able to communicate with sensitivity, respect and in the process ensure that the dignity of the sick is maintained. These kind of communication skills, referred to as empathy and comfort skills, help the nurse establish trust with the patient.
Among peers and colleagues in the hospital, a nurse should likewise develop communication skills necessary in group and team work.
Another relevant skill to develop in both the professional and ethical sphere of nurses’ communication is the faculty for critical thinking.
As a co-worker of doctors and other medical professionals, nurses should be able to contribute to the overall care of the patients. As such, critical thinking is necessary. This means being able to assess medical situations and conditions and put forward relevant questions in the course of discussions with both the medical team and the patient.
Lastly, for all the reasons presented earlier, one of the most important aspect in communication skills is listening. How well one listens has an impact on one’s effectiveness in the workplace, among others. By being a good listener, one’s ability to influence, persuade and negotiate becomes better, too. Being a good listener means one has to put in effort in understanding what the message is all about.
In a nurse-patient relationship, it is of great importance to let the patient know that the nurse is listening to what he or she is saying. Same is true when the nurse is communicating with the doctor or any member of the medical team he/she is working with.
A lot of concentration and determination is needed to be an active listener, especially in a hospital setting. Thus, it is necessary to continuously remind oneself to be sincere in hearing what the other person is conveying. Asking question, reflecting on the answers and paraphrasing the patient’s and/or doctors’ message will help ensure that the nurse understood the message.
On the whole, a nurse maintains both a professional relationship as well as therapeutic relationship with the patients. Developing one’s professional communication skills is very important to be able to do the job effectively.
But in a bigger perspective, since a nurse works directly with people and, in a sense, it is not only necessary to harness skills for effective professional communication but also skills in ethical communication.
Allen, J., Brock, S. (2003). Health care Communication Using Personality Type: Patients are Different. Hove, England: Routledge
Rayed, Eileen Berlin. (1993). Case studies in health communication. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Riley. Julia. (2000). Communication in Nursing. St. Louis, MO: Mosby.