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Therapeutic communication is one of the pillars of nursing skills.

This lesson explores examples of therapeutic communication techniques in nursing, including active listening, conflict resolution and imparting information to the patient.

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Communication Process

Communication is a two-way process where an exchange of ideas, thoughts, and emotions takes place through verbal or nonverbal signals. In nursing, communication is important because it determines the outcome of patient-nurse interactions.

Nurses must use clear, relevant, simple, adaptable, and credible language when communicating verbally. Non-verbal communication, such as the nurse’s gait, posture, facial expressions, the tone of voice, eye contact, and hand body movement, also contribute towards an effective therapeutic communication.

The Goal of Therapeutic Communication

Therapeutic communication (TC) is a process where communication techniques are being used to promote the wellbeing of a patient in a nursing care profession. TC helps the nurse to gain the trust of patients. When patients believe that a nurse cares about them, understands them, and is concerned about their problems, then a clear communication channel opens to strengthen the individualized care.

Therapeutic Communication Example

Let’s take a look at an example of therapeutic communication between a patient and a nurse.

  • Patient: I just lost a big business deal and my profit is all gone. My blood pressure is rising.
  • Nurse: I understand that losing a big business deal is overwhelming. Has this affected your sleeping or eating habits as well?

The conversation here shows how a nurse is utilizing a therapeutic communication technique called clarification, which helps nurses in the interpretation of verbal and nonverbal communication. The nurse wants additional information from the patient so she can more easily assess his health and situation. The nurse’s response encourages the patient to express his feelings in a caring environment.

Therapeutic Communication Techniques

Let’s explore a few of the techniques that nurses can use to improve therapeutic communication.

Active listening starts in the introductory period when a nurse begins interacting with the patient. This technique requires nurses to use their senses and attentiveness to analyze verbal and nonverbal communication with conscientiousness to a patient. Active listening involves:

  1. Listening to the patient
  2. Comprehending or understanding what the patient is saying
  3. Retaining the information provided by the patient
  4. Using the information provided by the patient to respond in a caring and appropriate manner or propose a solution

Here is an example of a patient and nurse interaction in which we see active listening in action:

  • Patient: My dog might not get fed today because I’m in the hospital.
  • Nurse: I understand how worried you are for your dog. Is there a friend or neighbor that you can call on the phone from here and talk to about feeding your dog?

The nurse in this situation maintains good eye contact, makes sure distractions are minimal, shows a genuine interest, and replies in a caring manner. The nurse does not brush off the patient’s request as a minor event of her day, and with active listening techniques, she gains the trust of the patient.

Mutual trust leads to better rapport.In nursing, conflicts or disagreements can occur when patients perceive a threat to their needs, interests, or concerns. Poorly managed conflicts lessen positive health outcomes, but effective conflict resolution makes relationships healthy, encourages self-esteem, autonomy, and self-efficacy among parties involved.Here is an example of how a common conflict can be resolved in a positive and effective way:

  • Patient: When I take this medication, my gums feel sore, so I don’t take it regularly.
  • Nurse: Thank you for letting me know.

    Taking medications on time is important for better health outcomes, but I understand your concern. Can you tell me how long this has been happening to you so that I can forward your concern to your doctor? If you write your phone number down for me, I can ask the doctor to call you about this concern.

Every nurse knows how important medication compliance is, but if the nurse in the previous example had responded by complaining or chastising the patient, the conflict could have escalated. For instance, the patient might stop being honest about medication use or side effects in future conversations. Instead, this nurse resolved the conflict in an effective way by thanking the patient for communicating, showing understanding of the patient’s emotions and concern, seeking clarification about the problem and developing a solution to the conflict.One of the key features of nurse-patient interaction involves the nurse imparting information to the patient in a non-intimidating manner.

Nurses must devise individualized interventions that mitigate fears and provide emotional support and empathy toward patients.The following example demonstrates the importance of patient-centered health education. Giving information in a therapeutic way makes sure the elements of shared decision-making and informed consent in a nurse-patient interaction are present.

  • Patient: I’m taking a new red pill.

    What’s it for?

  • Nurse: I know the doctor gave you a new medication for anemia.
  • Patient: I know I have anemia, but I need to know more about my medication.
  • Nurse: What is your understanding of your treatment?
  • Patient: Isn’t the medication supposed to stop my heart palpitations?
  • Nurse: Yes, it is. I’ll review each medication again and get back to you as soon as possible with more information about the purposes and side effects of your prescribed medications.

  • Patient: Okay. I need to know what I’m taking and why.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Therapeutic communication (TC) is a process where communication techniques are being used to promote the wellbeing of a patient in a nursing care profession.

It’s an important competency for any nurse because it is the foundation to establish trust and respect in a nurse-patient relationship. A lack of empathy and authentic interest by a nurse can increase anxiety among patients and compromise positive clinical outcomes. By engaging in effective verbal and nonverbal communication and adopting therapeutic communication techniques, such as conflict resolution, active listening and imparting information to the patient, better patient health outcomes can be achieved.

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