Nurse Communication: The Backbone of Patient Experience

As long as healthcare leaders have measured patient experience, they’ve seen a strong correlation between nurse communication and the overall experience. After 25 years of conducting communication skill training for nurses, I have made a few important observations about the subject, including:

  • Most nurses want to be good communicators.
  • Focusing on tasks before human interaction is the most common barrier to good communication.
  • Workload and the accompanying cognitive load interfere with communication.
  • Learning and exercising a few vital techniques makes a big difference in nurse/patient communication.

Good communication techniques should not add more work for nurses but rather a shift in how they go about the work they are already doing.

Two Pivotal Nurse Communication Skills

This morning, I reviewed over 500 evaluations from a recent nurse communication training. They expressed confidence in newly acquired skills. Two of the skills that made the biggest difference for them were learning to ask open-ended questions and recapping something they know about the patient. Here’s why. Open-ended questions invite dialog that provides more insight into the situation. Compare that to a series of closed-ended questions that can feel like an inquisition. In our Nurse/Patient Partnership course, nurses do an open-ended question exercise, helping them to shift habits that inadvertently stifle dialog.

The art of recapping is another simple but under-utilized skill that builds patient trust in seconds. Consider the patient perspective in the following two scenarios:

  1. The nurse walks in and asks, “Did anyone talk with you about having a CT scan today? VS
  2. The nurse walks in and states, “Jenny, your night nurse shared that you will be having a CT scan of your abdomen. What questions can I answer for you about that? “

The second scenario shows the patient that you are a team, and you share vital information. It creates a more welcoming environment for questions.

Small changes can make a huge difference in nurse communication. Baird Group’s nurse trainers have an inspirational and informational approach to building the most vital skills. Click here to schedule your private consultation.

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