Communication is a major component of Correctional Nursing practice. Good communication enhances the therapeutic relationship nurses need in order to provide appropriate and effective patient care. Errors in communication can cause misunderstanding and even mistrust of the nurse, both of which will negatively impact patient care. Consider these five communication errors that may occur.
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, and they can do more harm than good. A better response might be to explain to the patient when the results will be received, what will happen next, and answer any questions the patient may have.
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 checks her watch during his explanation.
“How can you say you are in pain when you were able to shoot hoops well enough 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. It also implies that the nurse doesn’t believe the patient. Rather than imply that the patient is misinformed, lying or uneducated, a better way is to state the reality without arguing. A more appropriate response in this situation might be,”You are feeling significant pain, and you were able to play basketball this afternoon. Tell me where the pain is and describe it for me.”
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 belong 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 so that he/she/they can make the best choice for themselves.
Be sure to read the companion post, Five Communication Errors Correctional Nurses Make
Have you heard some communication errors at your facility? Share your correctional nursing communication stories in the comments section of this post.