Communication Tips for Nurses and Nursing Assistants

Good communication skills help you deliver better care

If you are considering going to nursing school to become a nurse, practical nurse, or nursing assistant, then this article is for you. When you think of being a nurse, you probably imagine all of the clinical duties you will have, such as checking a patient’s blood pressure or getting a patient ready to see the doctor. Your clinical skills are definitely the most important, but in addition to these critical skills, you will also need to develop good communication skills.

Why is good communication so important in the field of nursing? Good communication can help you deliver accurate, effective nursing care while bad communication can result in errors and mistakes that could endanger a patient. Here are some tips to improve your communications not only with patients but also with fellow nurses.

1. Make eye contact
These days when everyone is looking at mobile devices, it can be hard to make eye contact with others. When you look someone in the eyes, it helps you see whether they are paying attention and understanding what you are saying. For this reason, it’s important to make eye contact when you are communicating important information to patients and co-workers. It really makes a difference!

2. Use the patient’s name
Being in a hospital can be difficult from the patient’s point of view. With so many healthcare providers coming into their rooms, they may start to feel like just a number. Take the time to address your patients by their names. This helps to communicate empathy and concern.

3. Use the right language with the right listener
When you are talking with your patients, you will use different language than when talking to another nurse. For example, you should stay away from too much medical jargon when talking with your patients, but be sure to use the precise terminology when talking to your head nurse.

4. Ask open-ended questions
If you are trying to get an accurate picture of the patient’s health, it is best to ask open-ended questions and then pause to wait for an answer. For example, instead of asking a yes/no question, like: “Do you feel okay today?,” you could ask a more open-ended question, like: “How are you feeling today?” This gives the patient a chance to give you a more complete answer.

5. Take the time to listen
With a busy nurse’s schedule, you might get so focused on completing your tasks that you may not be listening carefully enough. Be sure to listen to your patients. What are their complaints? What symptoms are they bringing up? Is there cause for concern? Also listen to other members of your healthcare team carefully. If you are asked by the head nurse to do something, be sure you understand the task and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need clarity. One good way to make sure you’ve heard what the person is asking is to repeat back in your own words what they have said. This helps to ensure that you understand what needs to be done.

6. Use positive body language
Crossing your arms and rolling your eyes are two examples of negative body languages that may send the wrong message to people. As a nurse, you are in a helping profession, and it’s important to have positive body language. Smile at your patients and co-workers. Hold your head up to project confidence. Look people in the eye to show compassion. Use a friendly and supportive tone of voice.

7. Show respect and trustworthiness
Each patient has unique needs, and as a nurse, you need to be respectful and compassionate. Never trivialize a patient’s concerns, needs, or fears. If a patient is asking too much of you, calmly explain what can and cannot be done for them. Do not promise things that you cannot provide. Being honest with a patient—even if it means telling them you cannot get to their request right away—builds trust.

8. Chart accurately and in a timely manner
Patient charts are extremely important. They are the key to communicating important medical information about patients. Whatever actions you take when you visit a patient’s room must be documented for the next healthcare worker to see. Documenting quickly is also important. For example, the head nurse may need you to document the vital signs before he or she can begin administering medications. If you haven’t documented your findings, this will slow down the head nurse.

We hope these communication tips help you become a better nursing professional. Good communications are the key to strong relationships. Building up your communication skills is worth the effort, because they are something that you can use throughout your entire career.

If you are interested in finding out more about joining the field of nursing, try What Kind of Nurse Do You Want to Be? or 5 Things to Know About Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant. We wish you luck as you pursue this important career.


The Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health is located in Manchester, NH. Interested individuals can fill out our simple online form to learn more about enrolling with us.

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