As a nurse, you have the education and training necessary to perform at your job but it’s also important to have the right communication skills to reach patients, families and their co-workers. Your training can only take you so far in effectively treating patients. You should be able to explain what is going on to them, their families and get the support you need from your team.

Here are 4 ways nurses can improve their communication skills:

1. Know your audience.

If you are speaking to the patient, use terms they will understand and don’t talk too fast. They are trying to process everything you are telling them, good or bad. If you want to provide the patient with excellent care, speak kindly and thoroughly. When you are talking to their family, remember what you can and can’t say to respect patient privacy. Use the patient’s name and be ready to answer their questions.

2. Be aware of your situations.

Know when to speak and when to stay quiet. Respecting your patient and their privacy is a top priority. You don’t want to be heard talking to others about the patient or their family in any way. The doctor and your team will need to be briefed but just know who is around when you’re talking about your patients. In an emergency, keep the communication to what is pertinent, avoiding small talk. The tone of your voice is very important to the situation.

3. Use accept vernacular.

Here are two more popular acronyms used by healthcare professionals. When you understand the foundation for how your team will work, you can jump right in. SBAR has since been widely adopted as a communication tool in health care. The acronym stands for:

S = Situation

B = Background

A = Assessment

R = Recommendation

The I-PASS mnemonic has some similarities, providing the following framework for patient handoff communication:

I = Illness severity

P = Patient summary

A = Action list

S = Situation awareness and contingency planning

S = Synthesis by receiver

4. Download technology.

Your team might use an app to communicate different things such as schedules or issues when they arise. Many times a group chat will be helpful for common team questions, problems, and even advice. Your team might have a communications tool they prefer so adding it to your list of used apps will improve your communication skills.

As a nurse, communication is crucial. You are responsible for the lives of your patients and being clear can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

If you’d like to work in an environment where nurses value communication skills and work to improve, it might be time to switch jobs. Contact the team at WSi Healthcare to see how they can place you in a facility where your communication skills will grow and you can be an asset to all those around you.