Principles of therapeutic communication every nurse should master


If you ever visit to a hospital in connection with some health related problems, the first person you meet there and probably the last person you will meet while returning from the hospital would be none other than the nurse.  Thus, it becomes imperative for the nurse to communicate with the person or prospective patient, extend care and assistance during his or her stay in the hospital environment and help that patient leave the hospital back as a person.

The interaction between the nurse and the patient, which results in a beneficial outcome for the patient, is what, in nursing parlance, is referred to as Therapeutic Communication. The primary goal of therapeutic communication is to make the patient feel and realize that he or she is being taken care of and the pain, agony or feelings of the patient are well understood and adequately addressed through treatment, care and assistance.

Therapeutic communication is not the same as social interaction or other forms of verbal communication exchanged between any two or more persons.  The communication between the nurse and the patient has the purpose and vision – care and assistance for the patient – and hence it is essential that the principles of therapeutic communication be mastered by the nurses.  Another notable aspect of therapeutic communication is that it is non-judgmental.

Care and assistance to the patient is the primary goal of therapeutic communication and gaining skill and expertise over this important aspect requires a nurse to follow some basic principles of therapeutic communication.

  1. The nurse should ensure that he or she interacts with the patient at a suitable time where the patient is comfortable discussing with the nurse. If the patient had just undergone some treatment and feeling a bit tired, probably due to the impact of medication, then the nurse should not disturb the patient with discussion related to his or her health.
  2. The nurse should also bear in mind the physical environment in which the patient is placed and ensure that there is adequate privacy around so that the communication can be effective between the patient and the nurse.  If there were visitors to the patient around the bedside, then he or she might show some uneasiness discussing with the nurse.  The atmosphere or environment should be better so that it encourages the patient to speak with openness with the nurse.
  3. Before beginning the conversation, the nurse should make it clear to the patient the purpose of the interaction.  This will make it clear for the patient and, having realized that it is related to his or her health care and assistance, he or she will more likely cooperate and provide the required information.
  4. One of the most important aspects of therapeutic communication on behalf of the nurse is to be non-judgmental.  In other words, the nurse should accept what the patient says, “As it is” without passing on any personal judgments.  The nurse should be aware of his or her own biases and should not allow his or her biased vision to intervene with what the patient has to say.   The nurse can extend best possible care and assistance only and only when he or she accepts the patient’s remarks and understands what the patient says, keeping his or her judgment or bias under control.
  5. The nurse should be an active listener in therapeutic communication.  In other words, he or she should correctly interpret and understand what the patient conveys during the conversation.  The nurse should ensure this by repeating what the patient has said and providing an opportunity to the patient to confirm what he or she had said about the problems.  This is a hallmark of active listening and every nurse should be active listeners.

These are some of the basic principles of therapeutic communication every nurse should master and gain expertise.