Chapter 1: Communication & nurse-client interactions
It took me a long time to realize it, but effective communication and human connection isn’t really a choice. It’s what nursing is all about.
The creators of the CPNRE® understand that having typical nursing knowledge and skills simply isn’t enough. That’s why interpersonal communication and nurse-client interactions are among the most common concepts tested on the CPNRE®.
As a nurse, I love working with people to help them stay healthy. But what I didn’t understand for the longest time was that we cannot help people get the kind of care they want and need unless we practice effective communication.
I must admit, when I was in nursing school I zoned out whenever we were learning about communication. In fact, I called the standards of practice ‘fluffy’. I just couldn’t understand why I needed to learn how to communicate and build relationships with people when it was something I had been doing my entire life.
Flash forward eight years and here’s what I’ve learned:
The interactions nurses have with clients are unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Which means how nurses are supposed to communicate is probably a new, and unfamiliar skill to you. The reason why communication is so important is because the ground rules are different.
In the process of studying the standards of practice from nursing Colleges across Canada, I realized that nurse-client relationships or interactions are built upon an unequal sharing of power, effort, benefit, authority, influence and knowledge:
- We care for clients, not the other way around.
- We know more than most clients do about their health and health care.
- We put in most of the effort, especially when clients are sick.
- We benefit by getting paid, but clients don’t.
- We can influence decision-making and policy change more easily than clients can.
- We invade clients’ privacy during the most vulnerable times, while our privacy remains intact.
The way we interact with clients is completely different from the way we interact with our family and friends – and for good reason. But a consequence of this difference is that many of us struggle with saying the right thing and doing the right thing.
It takes tremendous practice to become a great communicator, and nurses who can do it all the time are in short supply. I’ve been a nurse for 8 years and continue to struggle with my communication skills. It’s okay if your communication skills aren’t great, they will get better with practice.
For the purpose of the CPNRE®, you just need to understand the difference between effective and ineffective communication and be able to identify what ideal and ineffective communication looks like.