Aside from clinical knowledge, communication is one of the top skills necessary for nursing success. Engaging co-workers, patients and administrators is central to efficient care delivery. In an online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program, you will explore the value of effective communication and identify ways to adapt those techniques to the workplace.

Here are seven communication tips to consider.

  1. Identify Your Colleagues’ Needs

As a nurse, you interact with a wide range of healthcare employees and providers every day — from physicians and nurse practitioners to laboratory technicians and respiratory therapists. Since each of these colleagues will likely have a different clinical focus, catering your communication style to their unique needs tends to improve efficiency and patient care.

For example, a physician may only wish for you to provide a patient’s current vitals and status during rounds while a physical therapist may request more detailed information about the patient’s history or support system.

  1. First Impressions Matter

A patient’s first impression of their nurse can have a substantial impact on various aspects of the relationship, including patient compliance and perception of quality of care. There are several ways to make a good first impression with patients. Be sure to:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain who you are and how you will be assisting them
  • Address patients by name
  • Make eye contact and smile when speaking
  • Stay mindful of your body language
  1. Aim for a Balanced Response

Patients often look to nurses for guidance and answers as well as reassurance. While you cannot routinely make decisions for them, you can offer them a balanced response. This is challenging but can be as simple as providing patients with educational resources that discuss the benefits and risks of treatment or directing them to current research about their condition or illness.

  1. Tailor Your Patient Approach

Just as your colleagues have various needs, your patients do too. Depending on their education level, prior health experiences and language barriers, you may need to tailor your communication style to fit their needs.

Bringing in a translator or providing handouts for reference can help enhance understanding, allay fears and strengthen nurse-patient communication.

  1. Follow the Chain of Command

Hospitals and other healthcare organizations typically have numerous protocols and policies in place, covering everything from requesting time off to reporting a patient fall. It is important that you follow these guidelines and the appropriate chain of command closely. Doing so not only streamlines the process, but frequently initiates checks and balances to more efficiently communicate concerns, address liability, ensure staff coverage, verify physician orders and prevent medication errors.

  1. Engage Patients’ Support Systems

Although your priority is to care for the patient, gaining the trust and buy-in of patients’ families and friends should not be overlooked. It can help with overall compliance, behavior and outcomes. Pamphlets, in-room whiteboards and digital resources play a key role in bringing everyone on board and working toward the same goal. Hand hygiene recommendations, central line care or daily exercise goals are often communicated via these methods.

  1. Verify Patient Understanding

Even when you think you are being thorough in communicating with patients and their support network, you will want to check their level of understanding. The teach-back and show-me methods are nursing tools used to verify that patients have learned the necessary information accurately. This simple strategy allows them to express their understanding in their own words or demonstrate it physically.

The efficient and accurate exchange of information is a vital skill set for nurses. Whether you are interacting with patients, caregivers, colleagues or administrators, your ability to express yourself has the potential to impact all involved. Finding ways to hone your communication skills can ensure this impact remains positive and professional.

Learn more about EMU’s online RN to BSN program.


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, 2nd Edition – Use the Teach-Back Method

Health Communication: You Only Have One Chance for a First Impression!

Professional Case Management: Supporting the Support System – How Assessment and Communication Can Help Patients and Their Support Systems The Chain of Command Protects Your Patients and You