Last week, during RNchat, a twitter chat for nurses, the discussion turned to the importance of communication. I was reminded that communication is not just talking, but listening. How often do you find yourself talking with someone and not hearing anything they say because you’re thinking of what you’ll say next? I find myself doing that often and even though I make a conscious effort NOT to do that, it seems to happen anyway!

I thought it might be a good time to review those therapeutic communication techniques we learned way back (for me anyway!) in nursing school. At the time, I thought it was silly to practice restating what my fellow nursing student (playing the role of patient) was saying. Later I realized that these techniques really do help patients focus and share information. Here we go:

  • Silence - Moments of silence encourage the patient to continue talking.
  • Facilitation - Use phrases such as “Please continue,” “uh-huh,” and “go on” to encourage the patient to continue.
  • Confirmation - This ensures that you and the patient are on the same track. Use a phrase such as “If I understand you correctly, you said….”
  • Reflection - Repeating what the patient just said can help you get more specific information. A patient might say “I feel so alone.” You can reply, “You feel so alone?” He might say, “Yes, I feel so alone since my wife died and my children moved away.”
  • Clarification - Give the patient an opportunity to explain his statements by using a phrase such as “What do you mean when you say…?”
  • Summarization - Restating information the patient gave you ensures that the information you’ve collected is accurate and complete.

Oh - and don’t forget about watching for nonverbal cues and using open-ended questions! What other techniques do you use to get patients talking?

Reference: (2008). Assessment made incredibly easy!, (4th ed.) Ambler, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.