18 Therapeutic Communication Techniques in Nursing

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 4, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Nurses often complete the most direct contact with patients in health care settings. As a result, they require effective communication strategies to help ensure they provide adequate care to patients. Understanding communication techniques in nursing can help you provide improved and better health care services to patients.

In this article, we explore the meaning of therapeutic communication techniques, discuss why they're important, and outline 17 relevant techniques you can adopt as a nurse for therapeutic communication.

What are therapeutic communication techniques in nursing?

Therapeutic communication techniques in nursing refer to systems that nurses adopt to promote a patient's mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. It involves the various nonverbal and verbal methods that allow nurses to tend to a patient's needs without judgment. The overall goal of these techniques is to improve the state of patient care by adopting relevant tools.

Related: How to Become an OR Nurse (With Definition and Steps)

Importance of therapeutic communication in nursing

Therapeutic communication is relevant in the nursing profession because it helps create a positive relationship between nurses and patients. This trust can facilitate better conversations regarding a patient's questions, concerns, and therapies. By better understanding a patient's situation, nurses can communicate relevant and vital information to other members of the medical team. This can improve the care strategies they design and help ensure patients receive the best medical support.

Related: Different Types of Nurses (With Duties and Salaries)

17 communication techniques in nursing

If you're looking to improve your therapeutic communication skills as a nurse, here are some techniques you can adopt:

1. Listen compassionately

An effective way to conduct your duties as a nurse is to provide compassionate support to your patients. To achieve this, a relevant strategy is maintaining an open mind when listening to them. Maintain an empathetic and non-judgmental approach as a respectful and kind listening style can create a positive bond with patients. This is because they realize they can confide in you and trust you to address their concerns.

Read more: 9 Ways to Improve Your Active Listening Skills

2. Be observant

Sometimes, patients may provide explanations that don't match their symptoms or fail to admit some underlying condition due to various reasons. You can manage such situations by making non-judgmental and simple observations that can encourage patients to disclose more information. For instance, by observing that a patient appears tired, you can encourage them to disclose the reasons for inadequate sleep. You can also observe their mood and appearance to discover some hidden clues.

3. Create adaptable communication styles

Understanding the needs of your patients often involves more than providing physical care. In some cases, factors like cultural background, age, religion, and gender can affect their behaviour. As a result, it's important that you approach your patients with respect, understanding, and sensitivity.

For instance, you might want to talk slowly when communicating with patients who aren't fluent in English. You can also get a translator, use their proper pronouns, or maintain eye contact to help them feel comfortable.

4. Understand nonverbal pointers

Usually, patients communicate using actions and body language, and these nonverbal cues can indicate their level of wellbeing. For instance, laboured movements, pain-related responses, and averted eye contact can help you determine what a patient is feeling or thinking. By understanding these cues and what they mean, you can better understand your patient's position, including those they don't share verbally.

5. Incorporate silence

Sometimes, saying nothing can be an effective communication strategy. This is because silence allows your patients to assume that you're listening attentively. It also allows you to process information from the patient, identify follow-up questions, and gather the courage to discuss certain issues. It can be an effective technique to help your patient share more information.

6. Lower defences

Demonstrating acceptance of your patients' concerns, fears, and explanations can help them feel more comfortable with you, encouraging them to share more information with you. Try to demonstrate to patients that they're important and that their ideas and thoughts matter. You can do this early in the relationship to start positively and encourage open communication.

7. Provide positive company

As a nurse, your care services can come in different forms. For instance, creating trust with patients can emerge from sharing a meal with them or watching a movie. You can also sit and talk with them to help patients manage the feeling of loneliness that they sometimes experience in hospitals. By providing support and company to patients, you can remind them that you care for them, helping them feel better.

8. Allow patients to lead during conversations

When communicating with patients, you can consider asking open-ended questions that can allow patients to provide additional information and offer them a feeling of control in the conversation. By allowing them to lead such conversations, you can also let them tell you what they consider important and their expectations. Relevant questions you can ask include "What's on your mind today?" and "How are you feeling this morning?"

Related: Nurse Practitioner vs. Registered Nurse: Important Distinctions

9. Engage with patients

Engaging with patients through active listening can help promote more positive interaction. For instance, you can consider nodding or making encouraging sounds while your patient discusses their feelings. Usually, this can encourage them to continue, as they feel their thoughts and opinions count. You can also offer insightful comments and questions regarding what they say to demonstrate that you listen to them.

10. Ask questions

When patients make comments that you don't fully understand, it can be effective to ask questions. By clarifying their statements and requesting more information, you can better understand their situation. You can also communicate to them that you're interested in learning about their condition from their perspective. For instance, by saying, "Can you explain that?" you can help patients self-reflect on their observations and demonstrate your interest.

11. Repeat statements using your own words

An effective strategy during communication involves restating a patient's comment to them. Using this technique allows patients to expand their ideas or clarify them where there's a misconception. It can also demonstrate that you're listening to their comments. When repeating their statements, you can ask them if your understanding of their comments is appropriate to clarify if necessary.

12. Create adequate time for patients

It's important that you don't seem hurried when communicating with patients. Appearing rushed can make a patient more reluctant to communicate their needs to you. Instead, staying for a few extra minutes can provide patients with more time to decide what they want to share with you.

13. Challenge ideas tactfully

After building trust with patients, it's appropriate to challenge their notions about their needs when necessary. For instance, you can correct misunderstood instructions, dangerous behaviours, or ineffective thought processes that can prevent your patient from getting better. When doing this, it's important that you aren't overly confrontational, as it's better to be respectful and tactful. Ensure you're explanatory and take enough time to explain this information to patients so they feel heard and important.

14. Encourage patient teach-back

You can also have patients repeat your instructions to you in their own words. This is useful after informing them about a diagnosis or how to take a medication. Doing this can help you confirm that your patients understand what you communicated. It can also help them remember important information vital to their health.

15. Use humour

Adopting humour during conversations can be an effective system to establish rapport, release tension, and maintain a positive atmosphere. It often helps lower your patients' defences and makes them feel more comfortable communicating with you. Usually, relaxed patients listen better to instructions and suggestions and often respond well to treatments.

16. Be original

While trying to maintain a cordial relationship with a patient, it's important that you maintain your personality. This is because creating a positive connection often relies on trust and authenticity. By showing personality, you can also demonstrate your vulnerability to patients, encouraging them to do the same. It can also increase their feeling of comfort within the health care setting.

17. Encourage self-reflection

Generally, patients expect health care professionals to make decisions for them in a care setting or hospital. While this is normal, you can also show patients that you value their input by asking for their opinion on minor issues. Doing this can encourage them to reflect, remain accountable for their circumstances, and problem solve. This can encourage healthy habits among patients that improve their recovery from a health condition.

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