Communication is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing or using some other medium. Sheppard tells us that communication with regard to nursing in a lot broader than merely the exchange of information; it is the exchange of feelings and thereafter identifying and comprehending these feelings in order to address them with delicasy and respect. Throughout this essay I will discuss the importance of communication within the the patient-nurse relationship, verbal and non-verbal communication skills and finally, barriers that may arise for the nurse while trying to communicate effectively with patients.
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Communication is particularly important in nursing for a variety of reasons. Nurses are incredibly important members of staff within the health sector that demonstrate caring qualities and connect with patients (Aiken, Clarke, Cheung, Sloane & Silber, 2003). Thorsteinsson (2002) believes that communication is an integral factor in developing a good nurse-patient relationship in order to supply clients with the best quality of hollistic care possible. In practice, it is often the case that patients meet their nursing staff before anyone else. The patient explains their discomfort or problem that they are experiencing and after that they have their vital signs checked by a nurse. It is also the nursing staff that guide the patient in how best to care for themselves after their visit (Heritage & Robinson, 2006). Nurse-client communication is crucial in order to improve patient care, this is indicated in the fact that doctors are often occupied and rely largely on their nursing staff to gather information and interact with their patients, expecting them to explain, inform and comfort them, putting their minds at ease (Ledlow, O’Hair & Moore, 2003).
Communication may be segregated into two categories; verbal and non-verbal communication. Verbal communication is the use of words and expressive language whereas non-verbal communication consists of body language, facial expression and gestures. Hurst-Brown and Keens (1990) tell us that there are six different reasons that we use verbal communication. These are: to satisfy our needs, to express ourselves socially, for the regulation of other individulas, to give information, to receive information and to express ourselves personally. Healthcare professionals began to research the impact of verbally communicating with patients that were unconscious in the 1960s (Ashworth, 1980). Research which proved that speaking to a patient that may be unconcious or under anaesthesia could be beneficial started to emerge. Studies undertaken by Lazarus and Hagens (1968) and Budd and Brown (1974) showed that patients (recovering from anaesthesia) that had been informed verbally during their recovery encountered less post-operitive complications.
Non-verbal communication can be defined as an expression used to convey all forms of human communication that aren’t conducted through speaking (Kacperek, 1997). Mehrabian (1971) shows us the importance of non-verbal communication telling us that in one message only 7% of the message consists of words (verbal-communication), 38% of the message is perseived through vocal aspects (tone of voice) and 55% of the message comprises of non-verbal communication.
Listening is one of the main components of non-verbal communication. To listen is to hear and to comprehend the vocal and non-verbal aspects of the message being received (Kacperek, 1997). The importance of listening to patients is huge. Adair (1994) showed this when he began to interview a number of patients, he saw that their care could be improved through listening to them, it was possible to improve the starndard of the care that they were receiving. Here we see how important it is for us to listen to our patients in order to deliver the highest standard of care possible to our patients.
Touch is another element of Non-verbal communication. It is often found to be a very powerful form of non-verbal communication as it creates a sense of peace and it enhances the significance of communication (Kacperek, 1997). Touch can communicate a sense of safety and has the ability to
relax a patient (Moon & Cho, 2001). This type of touch is referred to as patient centred comfort touch by Kruijver, Kerkstra, Bensing, and van de Wiel (2000). Touch as a healing or beneficial intfluence was broadly unknown and unfortunately unused until the 1950s when research was eventually carried out (Shames, 1997). Weiss (1986) discovered that touch has many therapeutic benefits. It can relax patients, reducing anxiety, lower a patients heart rate and lessen the occurance of cardiac dysrhythmias in critical environments. Here we see how touch can affect a person not only mentally, but physically too. Therefore we cannot fail to recognise what a valuable element of non-verbal communication touch can be.
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However, sometimes various barriers may prevent a member of the nursing staff from communicating affectively. A barrier is an obsticle that may inhibate communication (REFERENCE google-define:barrier). One of the main barriers present in the world of nursing is stress and an unavailability of support. Wilkinson (1991) stated that the amount of support available to a nurse had a strong link to how competantly he or she could communicate.Plante & Bouchard (1996) also suggested that there was a strong correlation present between stress and a nurses ability to communicate. Various researches have noted that where insufficient support schemes have not been put in place in order to cope with stress results in a barrier; preventing nursing staff in communicating effeciently (Reynolds et al., 2000). Other analysts have carried out research and have found that when there is inadequate support for patients to cope with some of the stress or pressure they may be experiencing available it inhibites them from communicating effectively with nursing and medical staff (Beaurepaire et al., 1994).
Another very prominant barrier in nursing are the hierarchial tendancies in medical settings. Hewison (1995) tells us that nurses have a scarce amount of authority in the hierarchy of a medical setting and in order to cope with this, many nurses exert authority and dominance over their patients in order for them to appear ‘superior’. It is rather easy for us to see how this would intimidate a patient and could prevent them from voicing their needs and concerns. The hierarchial tendancies that appear very prominant in nursing and healthcare may also effect nurses giving them a sense of low self-esteem and it may also cause them to find little intrinsic satisfaction from their job. This can also have an impact on a nurses ability to communicate (Adamson et al., 1995)
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