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The importance of effective communication in nursing

Fine-tuning your communication skills enhances your ability to interact with patients and colleagues in the workplace.

By GlobalHealth Education Published 24/03/2023

Clear communication is important for all professions but especially nursing.

Every day, nurses need to convey complex information to patients, families, colleagues and other health professionals in a way that’s understandable, empathetic and person-centred.

Effective communication in nursing takes many forms. To provide quality care, nurses must master various nursing communication strategies, including verbal, non-verbal and written communication.

By developing these crucial skills, nurses can improve their day-to-day experiences while contributing to a more positive future of nursing.

Why is communication important in nursing?

Communication skills are highly regarded in many workplaces, but it’s not in every setting that someone’s communication style can deeply affect the lives of others. Not only is effective communication in nursing vital to the health and safety of patients but also the mental health of nurses.

Here are some of the relationships nurses hold and why good communication is essential.

Communication between nurses

Nurses need to communicate effectively with each other for the benefit of patients, families and each other.

A primary component of a nurse’s job is to communicate pertinent patient information with other relevant health professionals to be able to deliver the best patient care.

Nurses must also communicate well amongst themselves for their own mental wellbeing in the workplace. Nursing can be demanding and poor communication can lead to high turnover and excessive stress. On the other hand, effective communication techniques in nursing can help build rapport, increase job satisfaction and improve morale.

Communication between nurses and other health professionals

Nurses often work with many different healthcare professionals, including allied health practitioners, doctors, social workers and other specialists.

Interprofessional communication requires a great deal of autonomy, assertiveness, mutual respect and confidentiality.

Nurses must share patient information sensitively and advocate for their patient’s needs. It’s crucial for nurses to ensure they understand the information communicated by other healthcare professionals and ask questions when further clarity is required.

Communication between nurses, patients and families

The most obvious line of communication nurses must follow is between themselves, patients and families. Patients are often in a state of distress when speaking to nurses, so clear, concise communication is imperative. In some cases, nurses may have to deliver difficult news to both patients and their families, each requiring a different level of professionalism and compassion.

It’s important to deliver information with a balance of empathy and confidence to ensure the patient feels more at ease with the details. Studies show that patients who feel their nurses are giving them their full attention are more likely to disclose information faster.

Additionally, effective communication in nursing can help:

  • patients and their families follow through with health plans
  • prevent lawsuits and medical malpractice. Improve patient satisfaction
  • optimise treatment outcomes with more clarity

The top skills for effective communication in nursing

Communication involves more than just delivering and receiving information verbally. While this is the most obvious form of communication, there is a wide range of techniques that nurses need to use to do their jobs effectively.

Verbal communication

As the name suggests, verbal communication is about sharing information through spoken language. This is how nurses will convey much of their information to others in both formal (patient care) and informal (conversations with colleagues in the break room) contexts. It also involves the tone, pace and timbre of the voice.

Written communication 

Written communication for nurses may include patient documents, treatment plans, emails and messages to other colleagues. All written documentation must be clear and detailed, containing the correct terminology and appropriate use of language.

Non-verbal communication

This nursing communication strategy involves body language, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, touch and personal space. Empathy is also communicated through non-verbal communication and often underestimated, so it’s important to ensure both verbal and non-verbal communication are in sync.

Other nursing communication strategies

Other important communication skills for nurses include:

  • active listening
  • relationship building
  • attentiveness
  • reading and responding to emotions
  • sensitivity to how others wish to communicate

Improve your communication skills with a postgraduate qualification

Nurses are often under the pump at work, so it can be difficult to actively polish these skills while on the clock. If you’re already working as a nurse and want to improve your communication skills or make a career change into healthcare, a postgraduate course can help.

Various units of a postgraduate course will help you strengthen your communication skills. Studying a Masters Program will give you in-depth training to prepare you for any healthcare role. You'll become a leader in persuasive communication, conflict management and dispute resolution, along with many other leadership skills to grow your career.

Discover a range of online postgraduate nursing courses from some of Australia’s leading universities online. Our courses will teach you a range of skills, including effective communication in nursing, so that you can further develop your career.

Studying online is particularly beneficial for busy nurses. Our courses are flexible, so you can fit them into your schedule and continue your career while developing relevant nurse interpersonal skills.

James Cook University’s online postgraduate nursing courses include a core unit focused on persuasive communication. Students will explore communication strategies, digital communication and advanced strategies for potentially challenging conversations and relationships in the workplace.

University of Technology Sydney also has a range of postgraduate online nursing courses that include units covering effective communication.

Speak to a Student Enrolment Advisor to find out more information.

Effective communication in nursing is essential

Possessing advanced communication skills as a nurse can improve every aspect of the job — from increased job satisfaction and better performance to more thorough patient care.

Postgraduate nursing degrees are a great way to refine these important qualities. Explore our range of nursing programs to find out how a postgraduate qualification can improve your communication skills and lead to a longer, more successful career. If you’re ready to take the next step, speak to a Student Enrolment Advisor today.