How to Enhance Communication Skills Between Nurses

Good communication among registered nurses enhances patient safety.
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As a nurse, you may work in a high-stress, high-intensity environment, and you may not feel you have the time to communicate effectively. However, since nurses work as a team, communication is very important, and worth the time to troubleshoot ways to decrease barriers both for ease of work and for patient safety.

More Effective Report

Nurses transfer their patients between shifts in what is known as report. This is when the most crucial information is exchanged. The outgoing nurses draw attention to ongoing patient needs that might might need closer monitoring. Troubleshooting what works and doesn't work in report can improve effective nursing communication. For example, nurses should be able to sit down and be comfortable during report. The area where report happens should be private enough that they don't risk being overheard by family members. There should also be enough cross-shift staff so that nurses aren't routinely pulled out of report to attend to patient needs.


Some of the worst places to have a conversation are the most convenient. A perfect example is in the hallway outside the patient room. Not only can it be difficult to hear above the din of monitoring equipment from every room, and the conversations of friends and visitors in the hallways, but it can also compromise patient confidentiality. Moving a conversation to a empty patient lounge or break room ensures better communication and supports patient privacy.

Active Listening

Active listening can be effective in enhancing nurse-to-nurse communication. In active listening, the listener provides feedback to the speaker by paraphrasing what she is saying and repeating it back in the listener's own words. For example, in report, a nurse might repeat back, "So, I understood that you started the IV antibiotic, but that it hasn't finished running yet, did I get that right?" Although active listening is ideal in many situations, it is also very time consuming.

Enhancing Written Communication

Charting is how nurses communicate with nurses on the next shift and everyone else who provides care for the patient. There are simply steps that nurses can take to enhance the effectiveness of charting. Minimize the use of acronyms and abbreviations and use charting by exception, when prudent and safe. It's also important to chart care that you give as soon as possible after you did it and to learn how to use electronic charting efficiently.

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