Effective nursing communication is essential in long-term care nursing not only because it builds trust and rapport with residents and their families, but because it also ensures that they receive the best possible care. Effective communication involves listening as well as speaking. Both parties must be engaged and present in the conversation.
In skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), this is particularly important because residents may have difficulty communicating due to physical or cognitive limitations. It is upon leadership to ensure that nurses and residents are on the same page. But how can long-term care leaders facilitate effective nursing communication in their facilities?
One way to facilitate effective communication in long-term care nursing is to create a comfortable and supportive environment that is conducive to calm and peaceful communication. This can involve using soft lighting and soothing music as well as providing comfortable seating and ample time for conversation. The Eden Alternative Model is a model example of this approach.
The Eden Alternative model emphasizes the importance of having a variety of plants, animals, and other living things in the care facility as well as opportunities for residents to engage in activities and hobbies that they enjoy. It also advocates for a shift away from the traditional medical model of care, which focuses on treating illness and disability, and towards a more holistic approach that emphasizes the well-being of the whole person.
Another important part of facilitating nursing communication is paying attention to nonverbal cues—such as body language and facial expressions—as these can often provide valuable information about the resident’s mood and state of mind. If a resident appears to be uncomfortable or confused by the conversation, the nurse should take this into account and adjust their approach accordingly.
Finally, nurses should remember that communication is not just about speaking. It’s also about listening. It’s important to make sure that residents feel heard and understood by actively listening to what they say without judgment or interruption. Taking the time to listen closely can help nurses better understand residents’ needs and preferences, which in turn can lead to improved care outcomes.
9 Essential Nursing Communication Skills
Nursing communication skills help prevent misdiagnosis, medication errors, or even untimely deaths. In this section, we will be listing nine of these essential skills for nursing communication:
- Non-verbal communication: As was briefly mentioned in the introduction, non-verbal communication includes body language, facial expressions, and eye contact. Through observation of non-verbal cues, nursing staff can gain insight into the resident’s emotional state and better assess how to respond. Nurses should also be aware of their own non-verbal cues and control them. This can include posture, tone of voice when addressing residents, and smiling.
- Active listening: This involves paying close attention to the resident and actively engaging with them in order to understand their situation. This includes asking questions, repeating back what was said, giving verbal cues such as “mm-hmm” or nodding one’s head to show understanding. Active listening is essential to nursing communication, as it allows nursing staff to gain an understanding of the resident’s needs and provide the best possible care.
- Developing relationships: Relationships with nursing staff, residents, and family members build trust and create a safe and healing atmosphere. When nursing staff teams have strong relationships with the residents, they better understand their needs. This, in turn, creates a positive nursing environment and helps the nursing staff develop trust with the resident.
- Inspiring trust: Trust is a valuable commodity, and nurses need to be able to earn the trust of residents, their family members, and fellow nursing home staff. This will produce better communication and coordination between staff members and make residents more receptive to care.
- Showing compassion: Compassion is an essential quality that new nurses must have to care for their residents effectively. Showing compassion takes the form of a simple facial expression, a kind word, or simply listening without judgment. It is vital that nursing staff show empathy and understanding of residents’ needs in order to create an environment of trust and safety.
- Understanding cultural differences: Different cultures and beliefs will affect how nursing staff members interact with a resident, and it’s essential that nursing staff are aware of this. By respecting cultures, nursing staff can gain a better understanding of their residents, their needs, and how they expect care to be delivered to them.
- Written communication: Nurses must be able to effectively communicate with their residents, family members, and other staff members in writing. They must also be able to clearly document their care findings, care plans, and any other pertinent information in the long-term care software so that it can easily be accessed by other staff or the resident’s family through the family portal as needed.
- Presentation skills: Presentations can range from informal conversations to formal presentations in front of the nursing home staff or at professional conferences. Having presentation skills will help nursing staff to be able to confidently present their care plans and ideas without feeling overwhelmed, which will lead to more productive and effective nursing communication.
- Verbal communication: Ultimately, verbal communication is the foundation of effective nursing care. Nurses must be able to communicate with their colleagues, residents, and family members in a clear and concise manner. This means being aware of the language they use and how to speak with respect.
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Management Skills Earned During Nursing Education
Most nurses receive some form of management theory training during their nursing education. This training can range from just a few days to an entire semester of coursework. The aim of the training is to prepare them for any leadership roles in the workplace and enhance their nursing communication skills. Here we will take a brief look at the levels of training nurses receive depending on their level of education.
An ASN (Associate Degree in Nursing) takes two to three years to complete. The first year will entail core modules, such as mental health nursing, and general studies, like math. In years two and three, students will focus on gaining hands-on experience training in clinical healthcare facilities, thus allowing them to put theory into practice.
An LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) diploma typically takes just twelve months, including a few days of training on delegating tasks. The goal of an LPN diploma is to hone the essential skills needed to complete the LPN job. LPN diplomas also offer a fast-track way to save time and money. Additionally, LPNs are drawn to the long-term care industry because there is more opportunity for leadership training, which also includes nurse-patient communication training.
A Registered Nurse (RN), meanwhile, will usually attend an accredited nursing program and obtain a nursing diploma, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s degree. If a nursing student has already obtained a BA or BS (in any field), they can fast-track through to an accelerated BSN program. This qualification is usually a two-year program with RN students having an entire semester dedicated to the ethics of care and cultural ethics. They may also develop nurse communication skills during this time.
A BSN RN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) is an undergraduate degree for registered nurses that usually takes four years to complete. Coursework includes leadership modules, such as:
- Inter-professional Communication and Leadership in Healthcare—In this course, nursing students learn how to engage in effective communication with patients, essential social support, and self-reflective awareness skills. This course is usually taught in a group setting, allowing students to reflect and gain insight from their peers.
- Intra-personal Leadership and Personal Growth—This theoretical module allows for professional development in building knowledge, skills, and attitudes through nursing practice. It also gives students the liberty to explore various leadership standards, education, and professionalism so that they can develop as nurse leaders with proficient skills in asserting control, influence, and power in both professional and personal contexts.
Still, any sort of management training covered during a nurse’s education is generally only theoretical and does not provide the practical skills, discipline, or mock-up training needed when on the floor. Instead, these essential skills are taught through mentorships and on-the-job training.
The Greatest Challenge of Long-term Care Nursing Communication
The greatest challenge of long-term care nursing communication is managing difficult conversations, such as discussing end-of-life care or difficult treatment decisions. In these situations, it is important for nurses to approach the conversation with sensitivity and compassion. This means:
- Listening to the resident’s concerns and fears
- Offering support and guidance
- Being honest and transparent
- Providing clear and accurate information
By following these guidelines, nurses will create a comfortable and supportive environment that is conducive to healing and a pleasant workplace.