3 Barriers to Effective Communication in Nursing (And How to Overcome Them)

Nursing is built on communication skills. To provide the highest level of care, it’s crucial for nurses to master the soft skills that allow them to excel in healthcare. But nursing is also a high-workload profession. As duties pile up throughout a shift, nurses can find themselves rushing to complete their tasks. A nurse may not spend adequate time talking with patients, listening to concerns, or perceiving needs.

Nursing is a high-workload profession, and fostering the nurse-patient relationship can be difficult. Click To Tweet

To make sure vital communication doesn’t fall between the cracks, it’s important for educators to set the foundation for soft skills early on in a nurse’s career. When a nurse understands the skills required for good communication—as well as the barriers that exist—patient care improves.

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In “Communication and Language Needs,” Dawn Weaver identifies three types of barriers to effective communication in nursing: physical, psychological, and social. Let’s take a deeper look at where these barriers come from and how we can avoid them.

Nurse demonstrating effective communication in nursing

1. Physical Barriers

Physical environment can make a huge difference for successful communication. Have you ever tried to talk with someone from a different level of the house? Shouting down a flight of stairs doesn’t exactly make for great correspondence. Similarly, according to Weaver, insufficient lighting, room size, ambient noise, and lack of privacy can prevent effective communication in nursing.

But are nurses really in control of their physical environment? Not entirely, but a few measures can be taken to improve surroundings.

A distracting environment doesn't help patient stress. But small acts can make a big difference when improving surroundings. Click To Tweet

For example, busy, distracting environments can increase patient stress. If it’s extra hectic on a particular day, a nurse may explain this to a patient. Also closing doors, keeping outside noises to a minimal level, and opening blinds are small practices to increase patient comfort. A safe and comfortable environment facilitates constructive communication.

Psychological barriers to effective communication in nursing

2. Psychological Barriers

Obesity, sexuality, disease, and death aren’t exactly pleasant conversation starters. And the anxiety and stress that comes from addressing sensitive topics can block effective communication in nursing.

Along with delicate conversations, nurses face a variety of emotionally exhausting situations. A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that many nurses experience anxiety due to a patient’s medical needs.

Patients may also be in a vulnerable state. For many, a simple visit to the doctor is enough to get their heart pounding. Stress, anxiety, and weakness are common emotions experienced by patients, and it’s understandable why. But there are ways to help.

One answer is for nurses to develop a strong bedside manner. Bedside manner encompasses sensitivity, dedication, and empathy. It also fosters good communication and builds trust and confidence.

Awareness fosters effective communication in nursing

3. Social Barriers

Gender, education, religion, and age all drive human behavior. We can’t change others’ behavior, let alone the way they see the world. So how do we overcome cultural barriers?

Awareness is key. According to “Nurse Perceived Barriers to Effective Nurse-Client Communication,” sufficient knowledge of a patient’s culture, language, and customs can help nurses communicate clearly and avoid prejudice.

What if you don’t know about a patient’s particular culture or religion? If you are unsure about something, ask polite questions. This may help the patient feel valued. It’s much easier to communicate and sympathize with someone else when you understand where they’re coming from.

Asking questions about a patient's culture or religion may help them feel valued. Click To Tweet

You can also learn more about the correlation between age and health. A 14-year-old and a 60-year-old may have different ideas of what it means to take care of their body. That’s why nurses should learn more about each age group’s attitudes toward health, disease, and body function.

It’s possible to overcome barriers to communication, and small changes can make a big difference. A comfortable environment, strong bedside manner skills, and awareness of needs foster the nurse-patient relationship. Knowing how to successfully communicate and interact with patients allows nurses to improve overall care. Effective communication in nursing can promote health and patient well-being nationwide.

If you’re interested in learning more about teaching nursing skills, you’ll enjoy our article, 6 Ways to Teach Nursing Skills Faster.

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Sources
Weaver. “Communication and Language Needs.” Nursing and Residential Care.
Hemsley, Balandin, Worrall. “Nursing the Patient With Complex Communication Needs.” Journal of Advanced Nursing.
Jardin. “What Bedside Manner is and Why it Matters in Nursing.” GoReact
Okougha, Tilki. “Experience of Overseas Nurses: The Potential for Misunderstanding.British Journal of Nursing.
Brandenburg. “Nurse Perceived Barriers to Effective Nurse-Client Communication.” Honors in the Major Theses.
Norouzinia, et al. “Communication Barriers Perceived by Nurses and Patients.” Global Journal of Health Science.

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