Communication in Nursing

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A simple definition of communication is the passing on of information to someone (Websters English Dictionary 1994) Many have studied communication and have developed their own definitions. One such examples are Ruesch (cited by Cresia et al 1996) who stated that communication is all those processes by which people influence eachother and Watzlawick (cited by Creasia et al 1996) who suggested that “all communication is behaviour and behaviour is communication” Communication skills have become recognised as a vital part of nursing practice. At the turn of the century, the word nurse was defined as “someone trained to care for the sick” (Blondis et al 1982). During the twentieth century, the emphasis in nursing has gradually shifted from not only being a caring role but to one of excellence in nursing skills, techniques and procedures. However, Blondis et al (1992) notes that nursing procedures must not take precedence over the patient as a person who must be approached humanistically. The World Health Organisation states that “nursing is both an art and a science. It draws on knowledge and techniques derived from the humanities and the physical, social, medical and biological sciences” It is clear from this statement that nursing is a multifaceted profession requiring not only scientific skills but social skills too. To address a patient’s physical well being alone would not be addressing the patients whole wellbeing, the patient’s psychological needs and social needs also require attention. Faulkner (1998) recognises that effective communication is at the heart of all patient care and Brilhart et al (1981) has discovered that a nurses need to use communication skills in their relationships with patients and their families are limitless. Faulker states that a nurse needs to understand the fundamental difference between what is social interaction and what is professional interaction. The literature studied on communication in nursing all identify the same fundamental skills required by the nurse to interact professionally and interactively with the patient. According to Verhellen et al (1997), patients have two distinct goals. Firstly patients want information, clarification and care for health related problems. In addition, patients have emotional needs such as reassurance, concern and understanding. It is the job of the nurse to ensure that these needs are met. For the first goal of providing information, nurses need to scrutinise their use of words as medical jargon may confuse or alienate the patient. They must also speak clearly in a tone appropriate to the message that is being conveyed. To meet the patient’s second need, the nurse can use listening skills, empathy and self-awareness. Webb (1994) describes aspects such as showing respect, trust and giving comfort as essential to establishing a good relationship with the patient. A therapeutic relationship is important so that patients can express their fears and doubts. Being able to talk to the nurse and discuss medical procedures helps dispel much of the patient’s frustration and also reassured them. Relatives are a very important factor in the improvement of the patient, especially in the care of children. Nurses must also develop a therapeutic relationship with relatives as she may need to take on the role of health teacher to promote and maintain the health of the patient aswell as preventing ill health reoccurring. In the case of the terminally il patient Jenson (1995) reports that realtives need support and for a nurse to provide it, he/she needs communication skills to enable her to explore any issues, share information, answer questions and spend time listening. A nurse may also be required to break bad news to relations and Buckman (1992) discusses the importance of good communication skills in approaching this very sensitive and difficult subject. (608)

Providing Information

In providing the patient with information and care regarding...
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