It was my sophomore year of college and we were heading into the hospital for the first time. We had been learning about communication and practicing with one another and now it was time to meet a REAL LIVE patient and use our skills. I was so nervous!

I realize now what this first encounter meant to me. I wanted my first official interaction with a patient to be a positive experience. I had already had some doubts about nursing as a career choice (you can read a little about that in Is Nursing Really For Me?) and thought that this experience would give me some insight if this path was indeed the right one for me.

Another thing that I realize now, was that I wouldn’t be just talking as a friend, daughter, sister, or student – roles that I was familiar with. This was new territory and this patient would look to me for answers and support. My role as a nurse was beginning and this patient would trust me to say and do the right thing. 

Despite my nerves, I remember wondering (and being a little impatient about) why we weren’t doing real nursing things when we went to the hospital. I know now that communicating with patients is real nursing. Making that human connection is a big part of what makes us different from other disciplines in health care. Think about how you communicate with patients, their family members and caregivers, and other healthcare providers. Think about how others communicate with you? Any differences?

I like to think that since becoming a nurse, I’ve become a better communicator. I try to consistently think before speaking. I work hard to really listen to others rather than thinking about what I’ll say next when someone else is talking to me. When a difficult conversation is taking place, I think back to the communication strategies that I learned during those first years of nursing school. I also try to pay attention to my own nonverbal cues and those of others.

Have your communication skills and strategies changes since becoming a nurse? How so?