Communication is arguably the corner stone on which any successful relationship, be it business or personal, is built. All professions require a degree of effective communication for success to be achieved. The nursing profession is one of the professions where effective communication is not only desirable but essential for a positive outcome to be attained. Nurses are some of the key players in health care provision and their contribution cannot be understated. The contribution that nurses make to the medical industry cannot be overstated and the World Health Organization confirms that nurses make a substantial contribution to health-delivery systems all over the world. Having the ability to communicate exemplary is necessary for the nurses to positively impact the health-delivery system. This paper shall set out to argue that effective nursing can only be achieved when a nurse can communicate effectively with individuals/groups to facilitate provision of care. In particular, the paper shall explain why it is necessary for a nurse to communicate effectively to other nurses, the patient and other health professionals.
Importance of Effective Communication
Effective communication fosters cooperation among individuals in any field. In the health industry, cooperation is mandatory since health care professionals are often required to work in interdisciplinary collaborative environments. For this reason, interprofessional collaboration is necessary for better patient-centered care to be achieved. Dumont (2010) asserts that nurses and other medical professionals should be taught skills that “involve knowledge of the various professions and the needs of patients and their close relatives, as well as the competencies and attitudes that foster collaboration between professionals”. It is only by achieving good interproffesional communication health care givers can perform optimally in the field.
Effective communication can enable the nurse to fulfill the principle of beneficence which is among the four principles that serve as a framework when dealing with medical ethics issues in any clinical settings. The principle of beneficence states that treatment should be balanced against the risks and costs. The nurse should endeavor to act in a manner that is beneficial to the patient. This principle stipulates that the patients best interests must be foremost in the mind of the nurse and failure to adhere to this may lead to legal repercussions Faulkner (2001). Effective communication reduces the risk of complaint and litigation by the patient since it removes any misunderstanding between the nurse and the patient. The actions that are taken by the nurse are therefore fully sanctioned by the patient and hence there is no ground for litigation.
Good communication among health care professionals can help health care workers to overcome some of the problems that are inherent in their field. This is especially true for nurses who are among the professional group mostly likely to report very high levels of workplace stress (McVicar, 2003). This is because the nursing profession requires a high level of skills, team working and a high input of “emotional labour” (McVicar, 2003). Emotional labour stems from the holistic approach taken by nurses which requires nurses to develop a relationship with their patients as opposed to distancing themselves from the emotional needs of patients. Zerwekh and Claborn (2009) suggest that effective communication which invariably leads to the reduction in interprofessional and extraprofessional conflict could to a large degree reduce the stress that is inherent in the medical field. It is important to note that while exemplary communication skills may come naturally to someone, this is not common and for most professionals, the behaviour must be nurtured and developed through conscious effort.
Effective communication involves the use of communication models such as the convergence model developed by Kinkaid in the 1980s. The convergence model of communication states that communication is not merely an interchange of information but a convergence of meaning (Faulkner, 2001). Usage of this model is especially important in the nursing profession where a mutual understanding is desirable. When communicating with the patient, a mutual understanding will result in the patient making sense of the information that the nurse is providing. When dealing with other professionals, a mutual understanding can foster collective action therefore increasing the efficiency of treatment for the patient.
In the health industry, nursing leaders are seen as important assets who set standards for professional practice and help guide the practice of nursing. Nursing leadership assists others reach their potential therefore increasing the efficiency and quality of services offered. Communication is very important for the nurse leader to be able to influence others. Baillie et al. (1999) asserts that effective communication is the priority skill of leadership. In particular, the nurse leader must communicate the vision of the institute and inspire cooperation from her followers. A vision can be loosely defined as the detailed mental image of things to come. Possessing a vision is paramount for any organization since it gives a sense of purpose and meaning to the organization members. As such, it is imperative that in any setting there be a leader who comes up with a future plan and then steer his followers towards its achievement. According to Palmer (2008) sharing a vision of the future reassures the followers of better days ahead. In addition to this, it provides meaning and a sense of belong to the followers and other stakeholders as they deem themselves as part of something greater. A shared vision inspires and motivates them to aim higher and employ extra effort so as to actualize the vision and make a significant difference in their own capacities. This in turn acts as a unifying factor and creates a sense of community between them. In addition to this, communication of visions provides the followers with a theme of change or transformation.
Effective communication involves the use of both verbal and non verbal cues to convey the message. When communicating with a patient, it is important for the nurse to ensure that their verbal and non verbal cues convey the same message. For example, when giving an empathic response to an ailing patient, the message needs to be reinforced by empathic behavior by the nurse Faulkner (2001). A lack of consistency between the two will result in the patient not believing the nurse. This will hurt the relationship between the two and for the patient to benefit optimally, their relationship with the nurse must be agreeable at the least. By use of non-verbal communication, the nurse can exude a positive attitude which is important for the quick recovery of the patient.
Effective communication calls for the giving of feedback so as to establish that the one has properly understood the information being communication. In addition to this, feedback acts as proof that one has been listening. This is important when the nurse is communication to other nurses, the patient and other health professionals. By giving feedback to other health professionals, misunderstanding that can result in adverse effects for the patient can be avoided (Baillie, 1999). Feedback from the patient on the other hand may help clear up misconceptions that the patient might have about medical procedures that are being performed on him/her. Clarification when the patient uses ambiguous words or words which have a social and a professional meaning will also assist the nurse to best cater for the patient.
Effective communication entails choosing the proper channel on which to carry out the communication process. This is very important since the channel sometimes dictates the effectiveness of the communication efforts of the individual (Faulkner, 2001). When communicating technical matters with other health professionals, written communication may be most desirable. On the other hand when breaking bad news to the patient, written communication would not be appropriate. Verbal communication would be more suited since empathy and concern can best be articulated through this channel of communication.
This paper set out to articulate the importance of effective communication between the nurse, the patient and other health professionals. To this end, the paper has highlighted the importance of communication and the effects that good communication can have. Effective communication has been seen to foster cooperation among health care professionals. Problems that are inherent in health care such as high workplace stress can also be alleviated by good communication. Effective interpersonal communication has been highlighted as the trademark of leadership effectiveness. From this paper, it is clear that effective communication results in: increased patient satisfaction and health outcomes, reduced risk of complaints and a higher level of job satisfaction by the health care professionals.
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Dumont, S. (2010). “Implementing an Interfaculty Series of Courses on Interprofessional Collaboration in Prelicensure Health Science Curriculums”. Education for Health, Volume 23, issue 1.
Faulkner, A. (2001). Effective interaction with patients, 2nd Ed. London: Churchill Livingstone.
McVicar, A. (2003). Workplace Stress in Nursing: a Literature Review. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Palmer, E.R. (2008). Ultimate leadership: winning execution strategies for your situation. USA: Wharton School Publishing.
Zerwekh, G. J. & Claborn, C. (2009). Nursing Today: Transition and Trends. Elsevier Health Sciences.