The Dos and Don'ts of Therapeutic Communication
March 14, 2014
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Therapeutic communication is one of the first concepts that is taught in nursing school. Nurses aren't just medical professionals, they are expected to provide a deeper level of care, advocate for a patient, listen to them, and be honest with them. It's important that nurses know the right way to say things to patients, and how to behave in front of them. Here are five things a nurse shouldn't say to a patient, and a more professional substitute.
"Everything Is Going to be OK"
It's the responsibility of a nurse to be encouraging, but honesty to the patient is paramount. If it's true that everything is going to be OK, then by all means, tell the patient that. But if there will be serious consequences from their illness, they need to be emotionally prepared for that in a tactful way, rather than deceived by comforting platitudes. "We are going to do everything we can to help you get well" is a good substitute, as long as you make it true by being the best advocate possible for your patient.
"That Is so Wrong!"
Nurses shouldn't place value judgments on their patient's actions, thoughts, feelings or beliefs. You're not there to judge them, but to help them be healthier physically and mentally. Negative judgment is a great way to ruin a patient's trust in you. Feel free to have your own opinions, of course, but they don't have a place in therapeutic communication.
"You Shouldn't Be This Upset"
Don't dictate to your patient how they should feel, but let them express their feelings and draw their own conclusions. "You seem upset, would you like to talk about it?" Allow them to fully experience their feelings, accept them, and correct misunderstandings respectfully if need be.
"My Significant Other Doesn't Listen to Me Like You Do"
Patients are not your friends. They can be very friendly and you may develop an excellent working relationship. But personal disclosures can not only damage your professional credibility, but they can open the door to an inappropriate relationship. As you share your feelings, make sure it is in a way that is professional. Furthermore, discussing your problems with patients takes the focus off of their needs, so save the personal talk for after work with friends.
"I'm Really Busy, But Call Me if You Need Anything"
As a nurse, you are going to be busy. And there will be times that another patient needs your attention and you won't be able to address the emotional needs of your patients like you would like to. But spending a few moments to let the patient feel heard, understood and respected is time well spent. They will be more understanding of your situation if you show that you care.
Therapeutic communication goes much further than the few examples mentioned here, but they are discussed thoroughly in just about every nursing school across the nation. It's all about showing the patient that you care about them and helping them achieve their highest level of health.
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