Therapeutic Communication Techniques for Nursing

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Therapeutic communication begins with the nurse showing respect for the patient and family members and recognizing that communication includes not only verbal responses but also nonverbal expressions, such as tone of voice, body language and facial expression. The nurse must listen and observe carefully and use communication techniques that promote better communication in order to understand the needs and feelings of the patient.

Use names

  • "Mrs. Markson, I am John Stevens, your nurse." Using a person's name makes her feel more valued, and introducing yourself is a basic step in establishing a therapeutic interaction.

Show empathy

  • You should be honest with the patient and acknowledge his concerns and feelings, answering questions as completely as possible. Sometimes the patient's nonverbal behavior can communicate more than words. Making observations about what you see can encourage communication: "Mr. Brown, your hands are shaking. You seem upset."

Provide encouragment

  • Patients often want to talk about their concerns but are reluctant to impose on your time or feel intimidated. Open-ended questioning may facilitate communication: "Miss Jacobson, do you have concerns you'd like to talk about?" Don't be afraid to allow periods of silence and encourage the patient by brief acknowledgments, such as "Yes" or "I see." Use your own body language, leaning forward and nodding your head, to promote communication. Listen for the implied meanings and encourage people to express them: "When you say there's no point in complaining, does that mean that your pain is not under control?"

Help to orient

  • Illness and hospitalization can be very disorienting for patients, especially the elderly. You should tell the patient what is real without challenging her. If the patient insists someone is crying, respond with what is true: "That's the monitor alarm."

Include the patient

  • You must remember that patient care should be collaborative and include the patient in decision making whenever possible. The patient often feels at the mercy of the system, but you can help him find ways to feel in control: "How can we make these dressing changes more comfortable for you?" Asking the patient is more effective than making assumptions: "Have the physical therapy treatments helped you to walk better?"

Recognize limits

  • You should never try to force the patient to talk or express feelings until he is ready. If the patient doesn't answer a question or chooses not to discuss feelings, back off. Respect the patient's right to silence. You can indicate an openness to talk: "I'm happy to talk with you about your treatments when you like."

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  • Photo Credit James Gathany, CDC, Public Health Image Library
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