Nonverbal communication skills for nurses

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Nonverbal Communication Skills for Nurses

Nonverbal Communication Skills for Nurses

The problems in the healthcare sector are enormous in scale, impact a wide angle of stakeholders and stem from highly complex causes, thereby requiring long-term solutions (Brinkert, 2010). The complexity of the problems affects many people worldwide. Overcoming such challenges require good communication and effective leadership. Nurses are required to have effective communication skills and approaches to effectively institute change and build a good relationship with the patients (Brinkert, 2010). Since nursing is considered a health care science, it is founded upon serving the needs of patients in the healthcare sector. Its practice requires more than scientific knowledge. It requires interpersonal skills and intellectual abilities. Communication is considered a fundamental component of nursing and its interventions, including health promotion, treatment, education and prevention (Brehove, 2011). The nursing process can be achieved by use of both verbal and nonverbal communication. Effective communication either verbal or nonverbal between a nurse and a patient is very important as it leads to successful institution of individualized nursing care for patients (Brinkert, 2010). Effective nonverbal communication in nursing may involve showing caters, kindness and sincerity. This paper will describe nonverbal communication skills and its use in the nursing workplace. In addition, the essay will highlight the process that can be used to teach nonverbal communication skills and the outcome of this teaching. It will also outline the future improvement in communication skills in nursing.

Nonverbal communications can be defined as either conscious or unconscious process of sending and receiving body and wordless clues (Brinkert, 2010). It involves the use of visual cues including body language, kinesics, proxemics paralanguage, eye-contact and touch. In addition, non-verbal communication can involve voice quality, pitch and intonation. Even when someone is not talking, the silence can communicate in a non-verbal way (Brinkert, 2010). Physical communication is considered the most used element of nonverbal communication. The distance between a person and another can be interpreted in a particular way. One’s posture can communicate whether it involves crossing the legs, folding of arms or standing straight (Coppens, 2014). Actual touching can be interpreted as a way of conveying attraction or intimacy, whether it is shaking hands, kind touching, hugging or patting the back.

Nonverbal communication has the capability of sending a strong message notwithstanding the words that come out of the mouth (Brinkert, 2010). Nonverbal communication can act as a repetition of what one is saying, a contradiction of what is being said, an addition or a substitution of verbal communication. Lasting and strong relationships are highly subject to nonverbal communication (Brinkert, 2010). The quality of relationships may be enhanced through improving the way one decode or encode body language. The way a person respond to another person’s nonverbally can express that he or she understands and care and will in the long run improve their relationship (Brinkert, 2010). Nonverbal communication takes up about two-third of the whole communication process. Nonverbal communication has the ability to strengthen the first impression and enhances the process of interaction (Brinkert, 2010). Nonverbal therefore serves as the primary means of conveying interpersonal interactions and abilities.

Communication among health professionals such as nurses is a process that commences once there is an established between the nurse and the patient and prolongs all the way through the therapeutic relationship (Wikstrom and Sviden, 2011). Therefore, the nurse ought to win the patient from the get go and this will be made possible of the conversations are done appropriately. The chief aspect of nonverbal communication in nursing is that a peaceful environment would provide an ideal condition which ensures confidentiality between the nurse and the patient. Appropriate nonverbal communication in nursing helps the patients channel their fears as well as their concerns to their attached nurse therefore making a correct nursing diagnosis (Correa-Chavez and Roberts, 2012).

Furthermore, nonverbal communication in nursing plays a huge role in ensuring comfort of the patients. It determines whether the patient will open up to the nurse or not. It shows whether a nurse is committed to the patient and if so, the patient would receive undivided attention of the nurse thus disclosing their situation sooner (Fakhr-Movahedi, Negarandeh and Salsali, 2012). In addition, nonverbal communication in nursing brings down the therapeutic language to one that can be easily understood by a layman. Therefore, it helps propagate difficult language only understood by an individual in the nursing profession into a more straight forward language that can be easily understood by a patient. In addition, for patients who are embarrassed of their ignorance often evade seeking explanations to the circumstances at hand therefore; proper nonverbal communication demonstrated by the patient understand the problems thus it may result to the correct diagnosis (Wikstrom and Sviden, 2011).

Nonverbal communication involves facial expressions, physical barriers gesture and also posture. Therefore, it is very significant especially during stressful circumstances where nonverbal messages of the patients cannot be easily interpreted (Brinkert, 2010). Every patient has their own typical features that influence both their behaviour and their way of communication therefore; nonverbal communication in nursing addresses the cooperation between the patient and the nurses. In addition, nonverbal communication in nursing addresses the mental processes that result from the effective therapeutic relationship between the nursing professionals and a patient (Brehove, 2011).

Verbal communication within a nursing workplace is not enough to be able to understand the needs of the patients. Therefore, they often require to incorporate nonverbal communication within their practices in order to effectively communicate with their patients (Shapiro, 2011). The various factors that a nurse needs to understand so as to effectively utilize nonverbal communication is the state, comfort, behaviour, emotions as well as the perspective of the patient. A nurse ought to understand the state or condition of the patient so as to incorporate the appropriate nonverbal communication. For instance, when the patient is critically sick a nurse can use facial expression to show that he or she sympathizes with the patient (Shapiro, 2011). This will create a healthy environment between the nurse and the patient.

Moreover, the nurse needs to understand the behaviour of the patient. This will enable the nurse clearly understand the various needs of the patient, which may include whether the patient is in pain or not (McCarthy et al., 2013). Therefore, nurses can act appropriately by showing appropriate body movements such as touch in performing a certain procedure for instance, administering an injection. Furthermore, another aspect a nurse needs to understand is the emotions of the patient. Emotions may come in very many ways such as happiness where the nurse smiles to the patient of even grief where the nurse shows affection to the patient using her facial expressions such as maintaining direct eye contact (Brinkert, 2010). This shows the patient that the nurse is with them not just as a label but as a human being.

In order to be a successful nurse, one has to demonstrate superb communication skills. The ability of a health care professional effectively communicate and connect with a patient helps build relationships and at the same time avert mistakes and thus offer high degrees of care. Therefore, a number of theories have been used in the best nursing practices such as Peplau’s interpersonal relations theory and Dyadic interpersonal communication model (Bylund, Peterson and Cameron, 2012). Peplau’s interpersonal relations theory centers on the relationship between the nurse and the patient as well as the therapeutic process that occurs. It involves communication which takes into consideration aspects such as environment as well as the attitude, beliefs and practices within the prevalent culture. Peplau’s theory describes relationship in four distinct stages that are aimed at attaining a similar goal which includes: orientation phase, identification phase, exploitation phase and resolution phase (Bylund, Peterson and Cameron, 2012).

Orientation phase helps the patient create trust and shows the first impression of the nurse and the entire health care system. Identification phase involves the interaction between the nurse and the patient and offers the base for understanding and hence the patient is engaged in the treatment (Bylund, Peterson and Cameron, 2012). The exploitation phase involves the patient having leverage over the services offered and at the same time taking advantage of the nurse-patient relationship to address treatment goals. Finally, the resolution phase patient no longer requires the help therefore; the relationship is terminated after the patient’s needs are met due to effective communication. On the other hand, dyadic interpersonal communication model defines the interactive process that occurs between two people (Bylund, Peterson and Cameron, 2012). It considers influence such as perception, content, attitude emotional and physical aspect. The model notices elements that can change the message. This model discusses the importance of transparency and awareness for the various elements that affect nonverbal communication.

In the health care industry, nurses demonstrate their nonverbal communication skills through body movements and postures. They often sit in a way that doesn’t compromise the comfort of their patients. They also maintain an upright posture in order to show confidence (Brehove, 2011). This helps in maintaining their confidence in front of their patients so as not to raise panic. Furthermore, nurses often maintain eye contacts with their patients which shows a sign of interest as well as affection. Also, nurses touch their patients as a sign of encouragement. They also demonstrate touch through hugging their patients. This shows connection between the nurses and their patients. Individuals tend to assume that every nonverbal skill functions effectively through every culture. This is unfortunate since these skills vary differently from one culture to the other. For instance, other cultures consider being close to a patient as a taboo (Correa-Chavez and Roberts, 2012). Therefore, nonverbal cues such as touch are often assumed.

Due to the contribution of Nonverbal communication in enhancing interpersonal skills, it is important for nonverbal communication skills to be taught and learnt (Vukovic et al., 2010). I took to myself to teach non-verbal communication skills to my colleagues as I believed that it would be beneficial to them. I believe that nonverbal communications skills are important in the workplace as it has the ability to affect the work environment (Brinkert, 2010). The first thing I did in teaching my colleagues about non-verbal communication is establishing a connection and interaction with them. The teaching process could be successful without a connection since they may not pay attention to my suggestions and ideas.

Connection and interaction gave them a sense of togetherness and became confortable around me. After building a connection with them, I used a one-hour session a day to teach them nonverbal communication using contemporary audio-visual materials. In these sessions I taught them about the types of non-verbal communication and how to use them effectively. I allocated one session for one type of nonverbal communication. This provided an opportunity to cover all areas of nonverbal communication. In the sessions, I gave them an opportunity to express their suggestions and quarries and their experiences of non-verbal communication. During the sessions, we were practising some nonverbal communication skills in the course of the teaching such as eye contact, facial expression and gestures.

In addition to the personal contact between me and my colleagues during the sessions, I encouraged open communication on a daily basis through the phone and email. In case of any question, I would offer an opportunity for them to ask even outside the sessions. I offered them useful materials about the subject of verbal-communication that they could use at their convenient time. In order to improve my colleagues’ nonverbal communication skills, it was important to figure out what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong. The most effective methods I used to do this are the use of video camera, digital camera and audio recorder. I told them to videotape a conversation between them and a friend or another colleague. They were to set a camera to record their conversation and expressions. This gave us an opportunity to observe their non-verbal back-and-forth and establish the discrepancies between verbal and non-verbal communication.

Also, another assignment they had to do is to ask another person to take photos of them when taking to another person. In addition, they were to record a conversation between them and another party. After these assignments, I allocated a three-hour session on a free day to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their nonverbal communication skills using the video tape, photos and audio record. We watched their recordings, listened to the recordings and looked through the photos and discuss the areas that needed improvement taking into consideration their tones, facial expressions, body language and other postures and gestures. This gave them an opportunity to see how they communicate with other people and acknowledge the mistakes that diminishes their non-verbal abilities. As we watched and listened to the recordings, we evaluated their non-verbal skills. In relation to eye contact, we asked ourselves some questions; is the eye contact missing, too much or just the right amount? For facial expression we asked ourselves; is the face showing? Are they unexpressive or filled with interest while chatting? Do their postures look still or relaxed? Is there some degree of tension or relaxation when speaking? The evaluation covers all the types of nonverbal communication.

In the entire process, I was able to establish the difficulties and strengths of my colleagues when it came to nonverbal communication. I learnt about the common mistakes that people make when expressing their non-verbal cues. First, I was able to learn that it is easy to accuse owing to the body language alone (Brinkert, 2010). In the evaluations I discovered that all my colleagues made incorrect accusations on specious observations based on their body language. It is important to verify one’s interpretation before reacting. In addition, during the teaching process, based on the observation from the video recordings of my colleagues, I learnt that it is important to stay true to oneself. Every person has her or his own way of expressing emotions and feelings ((McCarthy et al., 2013)). What you communicate through non-verbal cues can have an impact on how people see you, respect you and trust you (Brinkert, 2010).

Many people often send confusing non-verbal signals that they have learnt from another person. This may damage the trust and connection between people (Brinkert, 2010). Generally, I learnt that it’s not just what one says, it’s about how one expresses what he is saying. Nonverbal communication is very important in the workplace and without a good body language, eye contact, gestures and postures, relationships can be ruined, trusts can be broken and respect can diminish (Coppens, 2014). It is therefore important for everyone to improve their nonverbal communication skills that require full concentration and attention.

In future, there are many things that can be done to improve nonverbal communication skills in nursing. One way of improving non-verbal communication in nursing is through training and development (Wikstrom and Sviden, 2011). An important training method in nursing is communication skills Training. Being an effective and efficient communicator takes time (Wikstrom and Sviden, 2011). Good communication needs to be developed through an on-going training. In order for nurses to be effective in the workplace, they need to communicate well. Communication skills training involve the development of both the verbal and non-verbal communication (Wikstrom and Sviden, 2011).

The training entails the basic communication dynamics, development of effective communication skills to enhance interpersonal relationships and learning skills in order to create an effective communication strategy (Wikstrom and Sviden, 2011). In doing this, nurses will be in a better position to use their nonverbal communication to administer their duties effectively. Another way that can improve nonverbal communication skills is through the development of cultural awareness in the healthcare (Correa-Chavez and Roberts, 2012). This involved the awareness of cultural issues and the impact of cultural diversity on the interactions with other people. Training nurses in cultural sensitivity will improve how they interact with patients and colleagues and they use their nonverbal communication signals (Correa-Chavez and Roberts, 2012).

To sum up, nonverbal communication involves the use of facial expression, gestures as well as postures to send a message. Nurses utilize these skills to create a relationship between the patients and themselves. Therefore, nonverbal communication skills are important in nursing since it helps the patients open up to the nurses which results to a correct diagnosis. Also, it helps propagate difficult therapeutic language to the patients making them part and parcel of the treatment. In addition, for a nurse to fully understand the kind of nonverbal communication skill to use, they ought to understand the state, emotion, behaviour and the perspective of the patient. In addition, the theories that can be used to demonstrate best nursing practices includes Paplau’s interpersonal relations theory and Dyadic interpersonal communication model. Nonverbal communication in nursing can be improved through training and cultural awareness.


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