The Importance of Communication in Nursing

Communication is a crucial element of nursing. Nurses must communicate with patients, co-workers, physicians and other healthcare professionals to successfully carry out their duties.

What Is Communication?

Communication is the exchange of information, thoughts or feelings through non-verbal or verbal methods.

Why Is Communication in Nursing Important?

Communication facilitates the actions needed to provide quality care. Improper or inaccurate communication can lead to unsafe handoffs, medical errors and fatalities.

In the article “Medical Error Prevention,” the authors point to ineffectual communication as one of the root causes of risks to patient safety. They ascertain that poor communication stems from the following:

  • Lack of leadership.
  • Unfamiliarity with hierarchy.
  • Failure to report a problem or disclose an issue.

How Is Communication Used in Nursing?

The communication involved in nursing includes transmitting information and messages to the patient, family members, the healthcare team and support staff.

What Are the Principles of Communication?

When interacting with patients, it is helpful for nurses to keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Acknowledge a language barrier and find a solution.
  • Be mindful of a patient’s mental state.
  • Consider a patient’s cultural and social values as well as their preferences.
  • Refrain from making judgements.
  • Respect the patient’s personal space.

Why Is Communication Between Nurses and Members of a Healthcare Team Necessary?

Nurses need to communicate with members of the healthcare team to ensure there are no gaps in patient care that can result in a “sentinel event.” The Joint Commission defines a sentinel event as an unexpected death or a serious physical or psychological injury that is not related to a patient’s illness or condition.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement offers a Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation (SBAR) template that aids in developing effective communication between nurses and other healthcare professionals. The SBAR technique is a framework for communication that conveys information about a patient’s care plan to members of a healthcare team. SBAR aids in conducting a conversation in this way:

  • Situation — Concisely state the problem.
  • Background — Include pertinent and brief information about the situation.
  • Assessment — Research, analyze and review options.
  • Recommendation — Request or recommend an action.

Why Is Communication With Patients Essential?

Patients should have a say in their healthcare. Nurses need to communicate with patients so they understand their choices for treatment. Family members also must be part of a patient’s care plan because they need to know how to help patients maintain and manage their health once they are discharged.

What Communication Skills Should Nurses Possess?

Nurses need good communication skills so they can make the right decisions and convey the correct information to all parties involved in the patient’s care. RNs who want to reduce the chance of miscommunication work to develop and refine these attributes:

  • Active listening — Nurses should listen to, understand and respond with pertinent answers, questions and statements.
  • Attention to detail — Nurses must be thorough so they do not omit critical information.
  • Compassion — Patients are more likely to open up to nurses who are mindful of their distress.
  • Clarity — Nurses who ask questions or impart information in a clear and precise manner can eliminate any confusion about the patient’s condition.
  • Personal presentation — Focus, eye contact, a pleasant expression and tone of voice affect how a nurse’s messages will be received.

All nurses need to be exceptional communicators. When patients are in a healthcare setting, they may be frightened and unsure of what to expect. The job of a nurse is to not only provide care but also reassure patients. Patients who trust their nurses are more likely to be honest about their pain, symptoms and other factors contributing to their condition, in turn enabling nurses to provide optimal care. Achieving positive patient outcomes requires effective communication.

Learn more about the USC Aiken online RN to BSN program.


The Joint Commission: Facts about the Sentinel Event Policy How Good Are Your Communication Skills?

NCBI: Communication in Nursing Practice

Nurse Choice: 10 Essential Nurse Communication Skills for Success

Minority Nurse: Why Are Communication Skills So Essential for Nurses?

NCBI: Medical Error Prevention

Institute for Healthcare Improvement: SBAR Tool: Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Effective Interpersonal Communication: A Practical Guide to Improve Your Life

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