Tips to Deal Barriers to Communication in Nursing

Nursing is a profession of immense responsibility. A nurse, through her undivided attention and care, can heal a patient and make him feel good about himself. Problems arise when the nurse is not able to perform her duties efficiently, due to the various communication barriers that we observe these days. For one, there is an acute shortage of staff in the health care sector. Due to the aging population in America, there is a huge demand for nurses, but the availability of professionals is comparatively less. This means that nurses are not able to give as much attention as they should to the patients, as they are catering to a lot more of them than they can handle. This can lead to miscommunication between the patient and the nurse, thus affecting the patient’s perception of satisfaction from the treatment and care.

Barriers to Effective Communication

As mentioned above, shortage of personnel in the nursing profession can create many communication barriers. Besides this, a major problem that is being faced is the inability of the nurses to understand the English language. With a large percentage of the nursing staff in America today belonging to other countries, a whole lot of language barriers are being seen. These barriers can be between the patient and the nurse or between the doctor and the nurse as well. If the nurse does not understand English properly, she might not be able to attend to the needs of the patient as efficiently as someone who speaks the same language and belongs to the same culture. This can leave many a patient feel dissatisfied and uncared for. And if the nurse is not able to understand the doctor, there can be a potential risk to the patient’s life. The nurse might administer wrong medicine to the patient or might give the wrong dosage. This can deteriorate the patient’s condition in many cases.

Another communication barrier that is often created between the nurses and their patients is due to the usage of medical terms by the nurses while interacting with the patients. Most of the patients are unable to understand these medical terms and hence don’t know what the nurse is talking about. That’s why, whenever nurses talk to their patients, they should use very simple language. If they are using a medical term, they should offer an easy explanation for the same immediately, for the patient’s benefit. One very common mistake nurses make is to not involve the patient while talking to the doctor about his condition. In such cases, the patient might feel ignored and will not be very forthcoming while expressing his needs, his condition, etc., to the nurse, thus causing breakdown of communication between the two. A nurse should come across as someone who is warm, caring and genuinely interested in the patient’s speedy recovery. She should establish a good rapport with the patient. Only then will the patient open-up to her.

Lastly, cultural differences are one of the main hindrance to communication between the patient and the nurse. There are some cultures which place restrictions on how much the human body should be exposed, touched, etc. If the nurse is unaware of these ethnic peculiarities and does not take these into consideration while performing follow-up care on the patient, it can make the patient highly uncomfortable. Moreover, in some cultures, certain illnesses may be actually considered normal and thus, the patient may not be very forthcoming in telling about its symptoms to the nurse or the doctor, this can further pose to be an impediment to his getting well.

By being an active listener, by being sensitive, by efficiently using non verbal means of communication, such as touch, gestures and facial expressions, as well as verbal communication techniques, like asking open ended questions so as to encourage conversation, acknowledging the thoughts and feelings of the patient by talking to him, by summarizing what the patient is unable to properly explain, a nurse can break the above-mentioned communication barriers. This will help in establishing a strong nurse-patient relationship and lead to better assessment as well as formulation of health care plans for the patient.