Communication is the process of sending and receiving information between two or more people, through verbal or nonverbal communication. Verbal communication uses spoken or written words, whereas nonverbal communication uses body language to convey information, like gestures and facial expressions. Nurses use communication to collaborate with members of the health care team and to foster trusting relationships with patients and their families.
Alright, now there are a variety of factors that can affect communication. When there are differences in language between you and your patient, you can promote communication by following your facility’s policy for providing an interpreter. You’ll also need to be mindful of cultural influences that may affect how information is exchanged. For example, in some cultures direct eye contact is considered confrontational and rude, while in others, family members prefer to receive information as a group so they can participate in shared decision-making. Also keep in mind that when your patient is stressed, tired, or in pain, these emotions can make it difficult for them to effectively receive information; likewise, a depressed patient might be reluctant to communicate with their caregivers.
Other factors that can affect communication include individual factors like age, developmental level, and underlying medical conditions. For instance, a patient with hearing impairment may require nonverbal or written cues; or a pediatric patient may receive information best when toys, play, and simple language are used. Lastly, environmental factors, such as an uncomfortable temperature or a noisy room can negatively impact communication, whereas a comfortable, quiet, and private setting can enhance it.
Now, to promote patient-centered care, you’ll use therapeutic communication techniques, including active listening, silence, restating, and clarification. Starting with active listening, this is when you attend to what your patient is saying verbally and nonverbally. As you actively listen to your patient, you can demonstrate interest by sitting in a relaxed position, and facing them while maintaining eye contact, as appropriate. Indicate understanding by nodding as they speak and waiting for them to finish their thoughts before responding to let them know you have grasped the meaning of their words and their feelings.
Next, using silence is especially beneficial for patients who are reluctant to share because it provides them with extra time to gather their thoughts before they respond. During silence, you’ll also observe your patient’s nonverbal cues, like their posture, facial expressions, and signs of distress like restlessness or eye contact avoidance, and you’ll communicate interest by using attentive body language.