Why Effective Communication Is Important for Nursing

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Why Effective Communication is Important for Nursing

This essay is set to explore the importance of developing effective communication skills in nursing. It will give a short overview on what communication is and what it involves. Then it will explain the importance of effective communication in nursing. Furthermore, the essay will briefly present some challenges surrounding communication in nursing and suggestions on how they can be addressed before it concludes by summarising the needs for nursing students to develop effective communication skills.

No original research was carried out specifically for this short essay. This is a literature review on a series of research papers and books that cover this particular subject and a conclusion is drawn from this.

Communication and Its Importance

Childs, Coles and Marjoram (2009) said that communication is a form of human interaction – and the process of meaning and understanding that associates with it – during which messages are exchanged between individuals and other individuals/groups before they are interpreted or comprehended by their recipients.

This is said to be the basis of all human interaction (Porritt, 1984) and therefore can have life-changing effects on the individuals involved (Crawford & Brown, 2004; Sheldon, 2009).

Communication is often studied from different levels. From social-interactive perspective, communication is believed to occur on two levels: the relationship level and the content level . The relationship level describes how two communicating parties are linked to each other and the content level describes the choice of words, languages and other information and how they are exchanged and interpreted by the participants(Watzlawick, Beavin and Jackson, 1967; in Sheldon 2009).

On the other hand, from the perspective of how it is delivered, effective communication is often studied in two parts: verbal communication and non-verbal communication (Porritt, 1984; Scammell, 1990; Crawford & Brown, 2004). Very often these two forms of communications are used at the same time and they are often interpreted simultaneously by the parties that take part in the process. It is important to understand that communication must be used effectively in order to achieve positive effects and studies have confirmed that good communication is usually the key to successful relationships between individuals/groups (Porritt 1984, Scammell 1990).

In nursing, effective communication is considered vital by many. The World Health Organization (WHO) (2000), European Union (EU) (2004), Department of Health (DH) (2004) and the National Health Service (NHS) Modernisation Agency (2003) have all highlighted the vital status of patient-focused communication between health professionals and patients.

This is because nursing is essentially an interaction between health professionals and patients where communications happens at all times. Nearly 60 years ago, Peplau (1988) took the first steps in redefining nursing as an interpersonal, interpretive process by giving the following statement regarding the study of nursing as a process of communication:

Nurses – like other human beings – act on the basis of the meaning of events to them, that is, on the basis of their immediate interpretation of the climate and performances that transpire in a particular relationship…the interaction between nurse and patient is fruitful when a method of communication that identifies and uses common meanings is at work in the situation. (Peplau, 1988: p283-284)

The impact of this view of the nursing encounter has been profound in the last 58 years (Crawford & Brown 2004). Numerous studies have been conducted since, in various countries and across the fields of nursing disciplines, and they have all acknowledged the importance of effective communication in nursing (Duggan, Bradshaw, Altwam 2010; Duggan, 2006; Finke, Light & Kitko, 2008).

It is known that bad communications...
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