Communication is a major part of correctional nursing practice. What we say can help us out or get us into some major predicaments. From angry outbursts to physical threats, grievances and lawsuits, communication mistakes can take their toll. Needless to say, good communication also enhances the therapeutic relationship nurses need in order to deliver good patient care. Consider these 5 communication mistakes and tune up your patient conversations to avoid these errors.
The nurse is taking blood for an HIV test from a fearful pregnant inmate. Trying to be kind and offer hope, the nurse says “Don’t worry, everything will be all right.” Although an attempt to provide comfort, false reassurances are not based on fact or reality. They can do more harm than good. A better response might be to answer any questions and identify when the result will be available.
A nurse can send conflicting messages when the verbal and nonverbal communication is incongruent. The patient does not know which message to accept. For example, during sick call the nurse may tell the patient to take his time in describing his symptoms but continually check her watch during his explanation.
“How can you say you are in pain when you were able to shoot hoops in the yard this afternoon.” By challenging the claims of a patient or arguing against them, nurses invalidate the patient’s perceptions which can lead to anger and escalated behavior. Rather than imply that the patient is misinformed, lying or uneducated, a better way is to present the reality without arguing. A response in this situation might be,”You are feeling significant pain, even though you were able to play basketball this afternoon. Tell me about the location and characteristics of the pain you are feeling.”
Passive or Aggressive Responses
Nurses can also fall into passive or aggressive communication patterns. Passive communication avoids conflict or sidesteps issues. “The diet here is bad for your hypertension but there is nothing you can do about it.” An aggressive response is likely to provoke anger, frustration or resentment. “It’s your fault that your blood sugar is so high. You shouldn’t be buying those honey buns at the commissary.” Neither response is therapeutic or helpful.
Giving personal opinions in the nurse-patient relationship can serve to take away a patient’s decision-making power. Always remember that the problem and the solution belongs to the patient and not the nurse. When a patient must make a decision, refrain from using language like “If I were you I’d ….”. Instead, engage the patient in an objective discussion of the options.
Now, see how many of these communication mistakes you can find in this corny video. You wouldn’t do this, would you?
Have you heard some communication mistakes at your facility? Share your correctional nursing communication stories in the comments section of this post.