December 30, 2008 | | Comments 4
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Improve the nursing image with professional communication

by Kathleen Bartholomew, RC, RN, MN

Every interaction that we have with another person at work is a communication. Even if
we never speak, our body language portrays whether we are interested or disengaged,
caring or aloof. More than anything we communicate what we think of ourselves.

Therefore, if we feel like a long-suffering martyr for healthcare, this image comes
through. And if we feel like a skilled expert who can compassionately deliver excellent
patient care, everyone who comes within five feet of us knows it without us ever saying a

Ensure you and staff communicate professionally by modeling the following behaviors at your facility:

  • Always stop and look people in the eye when you are speaking to them
  • Never stand by listening while one staff member puts another one down
  • Never criticize in public; always speak to the person directly in private
  • Keep confidences
  • Work cooperatively, despite feelings of dislike
  • Be willing to help when help is requested (or you notice a staff member is
  • overwhelmed)
  • Don’t participate in gossip
  • Stand up for the absent member in a conversation
  • Respect the privacy of others
  • Address coworkers by their first names, and ask for help and advice when needed

What are some other behaviors nurses can model to communicate professionally?

Entry Information

Filed Under: Image of nursing


About the Author: This post was compiled by members of the Strategies for Nurse Managers staff.

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  1. These are great ideas and an idea for implementing them can be found at

    One hospital used strategies from “A Complaint-Free World” to improve its working environment.

  2. Some time ago, a nursing school classmate of mine decided to apply to medical school. He was a very good CCU nurse, but decided that he really wanted to be a cardiologist. He was accepted to medical school and a few years later, he graduated and began his new career in medicine.

    We were talking about his experiences in nursing and medicine one day and he told me that one of the biggest differences he noticed was how he was treated by his colleagues when he graduated. When he began his first staff position as a nurse on a med-surg floor, he was welcomed, but with reservations. He felt as if everyone was watching him to see how he would mess up. He soon learned that there were only a couple of nurses who he could ask for help, and they made in plain that it was an imposition, as if he wasn’t carrying his weight. It was pretty much a sink-or-swim situation.

    In his first year as a physician, however, while it was a difficult year for him and he faced many new challenges, he said that he found he could talk to almost all of his colleagues when he needed help. While there were some who very reserved, there were also many who would share their own experiences when he faced a difficult decision. While he got plenty of criticism when he deserved it, many of his colleagues actually went out of their way to help. He realized they really wanted him to succeed.

    If only.

  3. This article was forwarded by our nurse manager to all the nursing staff on our unit. I think this is a great article and I agree with its content. However, I think the advice needs to start with the management of a unit. If a manager is not willing to practice what they are advising, how can they expect it of their staff?

  4. Yes, you will have no social life but this will not bother you.

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