Keys to Effective Communication When You Work in Healthcare

December 21, 2020

Susie Woodford

Registered Nurse, RN to MSN Program


Communication is one of the most important aspects of being a nurse. Not only do nurses need to communicate with their patients and families, they also need to communicate with doctors, therapists, administrators and other nurses. After working in the healthcare field for many years, I’ve learned a few keys to communicating effectively:

Make communication a priority. Time is always at a premium for every nurse, but it’s essential that you take the time to communicate. While notes and charting are important, nothing can substitute for direct person-to-person communication between nurses.

Maintain eye contact. Remember to maintain eye contact, whether you are the one speaking or listening. Eye contact shows you are paying attention and that the conversation is important to you.

Be respectful. No matter what the circumstance, keep your voice free of emotion and keep your volume low. Showing emotions won’t help any situation, but it may cause additional problems. It is also critical that you choose your words wisely. No one wants to be judged or accused in a workplace conversation and you definitely do not want your patients to feel that way. Remember that if you’re finding it too difficult to communicate calmly in the moment, you can always walk away until you’ve gotten your emotions under control. You can also offer the person you are talking to that same opportunity to walk away if they seem to be struggling with the same thing.

Consider your body language. Picture someone stomping toward you, swinging their arms, hands fisted and with a scowl on their face. Contrast that with the same person walking toward you with a relaxed demeanor and a welcoming smile instead. Body language can paint a thousand words, good or bad! When speaking to another person, instead of talking to them with your hands on your hips or your arms crossed against your chest, keep your arms at your sides or in a neutral position.

Take time to listen. Communication isn’t just about what you say and how you say it, it’s also about listening to the other person. You do this naturally with patients but it’s easy to not be as diligent with your coworkers since everyone is busy and focused on the next thing that needs to get done. Make an effort to give conversations your full focus. Think about what the person is saying to you and keep an open mind. You might learn something new!

Effective communication can make all the difference in your nursing career. Regularly sharing thoughts, updates, concerns and patient information as needed can build strong and supportive relationships when done with finesse. Good patient care takes a team effort and good communication can make that happen.

Take the next step in your nursing career by enrolling in a nursing degree program at American College of Education. Explore our RN to BSN, BSN to MSN and RN to MSN programs and start your journey.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Susie Woodford
Susie Woodford, Registered Nurse, RN to MSN Program

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