Communication tips for nurses

Communication Tips for Nurses

In our role as a nurse (and life in general) we may find ourselves in situations where our communication skills are put to the test.

Everyone is different so the following are not set in stone and are by no means the best method of communication for everyone however they will help you on the path to being a better all round communicator. In this article we focus on improving communication with those that are deaf or hard of hearing.

When speaking to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing…

  1. Be visable.  Make sure you switch the lights on, remind your patient to put on their glasses/contacts if they need to and check the sun isn’t shining in their eyes from behind you. 
  2. Lip reading – one of the key things to remember if there is no need to speak really loudly (or whisper), try and speak normally. Try and enunciate clearly but don’t overdo it.  Ensure you can be seen, as above and think about where you are sitting.  Keep your head up so your mouth can be seen and use eye contact.   

Hand gestures are generally ok but try and avoid blocking your mouth with your hands.

  1. Background noise – try and keep this to a minimum.  This can be difficult on a ward environment but where possible turn down the TV or move to quieter area where there are less distractions.
  2. Repeat things as often as required – you may need to repeat things a few times, please remain patient doing this.  Do not change the words you are using unless asked to do so.  Remember a single word can completely change the context of what you are saying so it is important that you check comprehension of what you are communicating.  Just because your patient is nodding their head throughout does not necessarily mean they have understood – ensure you check this with them and clarify what they think they heard.  It can be a good idea to go this at several points throughout the conversation especially when communicating important health information or care instructions.

Under no circumstances when someone is unable to comprehend what you are saying say “never mind it wasn’t important”.  This is rude and dismissive.  Repeat as necessary and if necessary find another way of communicating what you are saying.

  1. Use technology.  We now have access to text, email, instant messaging – all of which are better than the phone for deaf people.
  2. Sign Language.  It is a good idea to try and learn some basic sign language.  Don’t’ worry if you make mistakes – your efforts will be appreciated.