Clinical communication

Communication skills

communication with a coworker photo

We are always communicating, whether we’re speaking or not. A well-known UCLA study found that only around 7% of the meaning of spoken communication came from words alone, 55% came from facial expression and 38% came from the way the words were said.

Effective communication has many aspects. It is, for example, respectful, assertive, empathetic, clear, attentive, honest and non-judgmental.

Effective communication is fundamental to nursing practice. It is a skill that can be learned and continually improved. Improvement requires keen observation, the willingness to be reflective, and the commitment to listen and learn.

What is communication in nursing?

Many definitions describe [communication] as a transfer of information between a source and a receiver. In nursing, communication is a sharing of health-related information between a patient and a nurse, with both participants as sources and receivers. The information may be verbal or nonverbal, written or spoken, personal or impersonal, issue-specific, or even relationship-oriented, to name a few possibilities. (Sheldon 2004, p. 4)

Why is good communication important?

The power of creative and effective nursing care is strengthened by good communication skills. Patients share their stories, symptoms, and concerns by talking with us. Both the spoken word and the body language convey information about the patient’s experience.

Your words can do so much: put a patient at ease, set up a productive relationship, and carry out interventions. There is no other skill that is used more in nursing than communication. (Sheldon 2004, p. 132)

Here’s a short quiz from Psychology Today to give you a quick assessment of your communication skills: Communication skills test.


Mehrabian, A 1972, Nonverbal communication, Aldine Atherton, Chicago.

Sheldon, LK 2004, Communication for nurses: talking with patients, SLACK Inc, Thorofare, New Jersey, pp. 4,132.

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