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How important is effective communication in the world of nursing? This lesson will go over the different types of communication and how they relate to nursing and other areas of healthcare.

Forms of Communication

You’re arguing with a friend, coworker, or significant other and getting nowhere. The argument keeps going in circles with no end and no solution. Can you picture it? Have you been in a similar situation? Ask yourself: could part of the problem be ‘we just aren’t communicating?’ Both effective and ineffective communication can influence us, not only in our everyday lives and relationships, but in our careers as well. In the high-stakes situations that nurses often deal with, awareness of our communication can be especially beneficial.

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There is a lot of information about the different types of communication, but there are only two main forms: verbal and nonverbal. In 2011, N. Nayab writes: verbal communication entails the use of words in delivering the intended message.

However, there are two different modes of verbal communication: oral and written. So no matter how the verbal message is being conveyed, it will either be written or spoken. On the other hand, nonverbal communication is divined as communicating by sending and receiving wordless messages. Body language, like facial expressions, eye contact, posture, or gestures, are all examples of nonverbal communication.This lesson will focus on the two types of verbal communication and how they are related to nursing and healthcare in general.

Oral Communication in Healthcare

With so many people involved in healthcare, it can be overwhelming for patients and families. Nurses often find themselves as the one that connects all the pieces of the puzzle.

Nurses play a pivotal role in the process of effective communication, whether they’re exchanging information with physicians, reporting off to other shift nurses, or educating patients and their families.Communicating is a continuous process when working in the healthcare industry. Oral communication is extremely important for all those involved, including nurses.

Not only do nurses relay relevant information to patients and their family, they are also responsible for updating the physician about the condition of their patients on a regular basis. Nurse to nurse reporting occurs whenever there is a change in assigned duties at the end of a shift or if a patient is transferring to a different level of care. This communication is a fundamental part of the nursing process and can result in either high quality effective care or ineffective care caused by lack of information.Imagine a busy emergency room where a patient comes in from a motor vehicle accident in critical condition. It is the physician’s duty to be the team leader and to designate what needs to be done to his or her individual team members in a confident and efficient manner. If a team leader orders a drug ‘stat,’ such as epinephrine, without clearly stating the dosage or route, the nurse will have to assume the quantity and method of delivery.

You see a problem here? Perhaps the nurse miscalculates and gives the patient an ineffective dose. As far as the team is concerned, they believe it was the correct dose since nothing was verbalized. With the patient non-responsive, they’re forced to move onto the next step of resuscitation when in fact the correct dose would have been effective.It is up to the physician to clearly state their orders not only for everyone to follow, but so that the orders may be repeated back as another measure of accuracy.

This type of oral communication is also crucial for the nurse who is recording in order to have an accurate written documentation.

Written Communication in Healthcare

Whether an institution is using handwritten nursing notes or electronic medical records, written documentation is permanent and legally binding. Written communication between all parties, including the doctors, nurses, patients, and patient families can occur in a number of forms. The key to all written communication is that it is clear and accurate. Using correct terminology ensures that other medical professionals can care for patients without errors. It also ensures that all those involved clearly understand the plan of care.

For example, a physician writes for the following orders: ‘bedside glucose PC/HS and 0200.’ What this means is that the nurse needs to check the patient’s blood sugar after meals, before bed, and at 2 AM. Common practice is to check a patient’s blood sugar before meals, not after. This written communication by the physician was not accurate and becomes questionable to the nurse treating the patient.

The nurse’s job is not to interrogate the physician, but rather, to confirm the orders in a professional manner so that the patient receives the appropriate quality care. In this case, both accurate written and appropriate oral communication are necessary for successful communication to occur.

Lesson Summary

Effective communication is a very important concept for nurses and all those involved in healthcare. Quality care simply cannot exist without it.

We talked about the two main forms of communication: verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communication is the use of words to deliver the intended message and nonverbal communication is the use of wordless messages, such as body language or facial expressions. Focusing on the verbal forms of communication, we broke it down even further into oral and written communication, so the messages will either be written or spoken.

For nurses, the information they pass along to physicians, patients, and other nurses needs to be clear and accurate. As we saw in the emergency room example, ineffective oral communication from the team leader led to an incorrect dosage and prevented other team members from catching the mistake. Repeating orders back to the physician to verify accuracy is an example of effective oral communication. Written documentation is considered legal evidence and can be used in a court of law.

Therefore it is just as important that the information in written documentation be clear and accurate. The purpose and practice of good communication for nurses is two-fold: not only does it ensure proper care, but it also protects all those involved.

Learning Outcomes

Look at this lesson’s content in preparation to:

  • Highlight the two main forms of communication
  • Display your understanding of types of verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Comprehend the importance of verbal communication in a medical environment
  • Relate the necessity of accurate written communication among healthcare professionals, patients and family members
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