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Nurse Manager Communication Skills

by Ellie Williams, studioD

Communication accounts for a significant portion of a nurse manager’s duties. She gives instructions to her staff, takes direction from hospital management, and sometimes answers questions or addresses concerns brought to her by patients or their family members. How she communicates with all of these people influences patient satisfaction, employee performance and the quality of care offered.

Feedback and Constructive Criticism

A nurse manager’s day-to-day communication with her staff can improve overall performance and productivity. Instead of simply giving orders or reprimanding employees, she can tailor her message so it helps nurses understand what she expects from them and how they can better meet the needs of their patients. For example, she can focus not just on immediate behavior but also on the desired outcome. If she wants to promote teamwork, she can compliment an employee who took on extra duties when the unit was shorthanded, specifying how the person’s actions helped the entire staff.

Tailoring the Message

Nurse managers must learn how to relate to the team in a way they understand and will respond to effectively communicate with them. Because nurse managers hold positions of authority, their employees might perceive them as condescending or intimidating, even if that’s not their intention. If they misinterpret the nurse manager’s tone, they might become defensive and the professional relationship could suffer. A nurse manager can prevent this by paying close attention to the other person’s response and softening her tone or message if the employee feels disrespected or talked down to.

Nonverbal Communication

Nurses respond not only to what their nurse managers say, but how they say it. Eye contact, body language and tone of voice all affect how employees perceive and respond to communication from their supervisor. Nurse managers can often control this by avoiding negative body language such as crossed arms or leaning away from the other person. Something as simple as leaning toward the other person to show interest, or nodding to demonstrate acknowledgment, can enhance conversations between nurse managers and their employees, paving the way for further healthy communication.

Creating a Culture of Communication

Nurse managers influence overall communication for the entire unit. By establishing an ongoing dialogue with their teams, they can encourage nurses to offer feedback. Key to this is understanding what kind of structure works best for their department and allows even busy units to take time out for communication. For example, managers can hold weekly staff meetings or send out regular email messages to keep employees apprised of changes or developments and ask for suggestions or input. They can also maintain an open door policy so that employees feel welcome to come to them at any time.

About the Author

Ellie Williams has been a journalist since 2001. Her work has been recognized by her state's press association and by her local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Williams graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and humanities, with minors in French and theater.

Photo Credits

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