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Essential Communication Skills for Nurse Administrators

The ability to communicate effectively is an essential skill for nurse leaders. Good communication skills are associated with better patient outcomes and higher employee satisfaction.

Communication Skills Essential for Successful Nurse Leadership

The development and nurturing of communication skills is a core part of effective nursing leadership. Strong communication skills enable you to interact more effectively with both colleagues and patients. In fact, a 2014 study published by the National Institute of Health determined that good communication is essential for achieving successful health care outcomes. Skills such as public speaking, writing, presenting and listening are important for a successful leader and help win trust from patients, colleagues and staff.

Oral and Written Communication Skills for Nurse Leaders

As a nurse administrator, you are constantly interacting with patients, colleagues and staff. You may have to deliver negative messages such as staffing changes or more positive news like praise for great performance. The nature of the message, the audience and result you hope to achieve all influence whether it is best to communicate the information orally or in writing.

Regardless of what you are communicating, written communication should be clear, grammatically correct and incorporate terminology your audience will understand.

When speaking, you should:

  • Enunciate clearly and speak slowly.
  • Avoid slang and jargon (unless appropriate for the audience).
  • Respond to others using mirroring language.
  • Be mindful of your facial expression and body language.

Whether writing or speaking, it is important to keep these tips in mind to help you better manage nurses and patients alike.

Conversing with Hospital Leadership

As a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program graduate, you will likely be called upon to collaborate with other hospital leaders. When interacting with fellow leaders, you can serve as an advocate for your area(s) of oversight and play a key role in organizational decision-making. In these situations:

  • Be willing to initiate discussions about your department.
  • Foster interdisciplinary collaboration by communicating frequently through emails or phone calls. Do not wait for meetings to reach out to fellow leaders.
  • Demonstrate you are a receptive team player by listening when others speak.

Interdisciplinary communication promotes collaboration among employees and can help improve patient health care outcomes.

Presentation Skills Needed for Nurse Leaders

Presentations are an effective way of communicating policy changes, building teams and seeking collective feedback. Many presentations are delivered orally and rely on visual tools like PowerPoint or handouts. Visual mediums like this can complement presentations and increase the likelihood that your audience will remember your message. To create an effective presentation, consider the following:

  • Use PowerPoint, or a similar program, to incorporate visuals.
  • Plan your message content in advance; a one-hour presentation may take several hours to prepare.
  • The audience’s interests; humor and anecdotes can make a presentation more memorable and engaging.
  • Use graphics, charts, videos and images.
  • Allot time for Q&A after the presentation.

A focused, audience-oriented presentation should deliver information that allows for discussion, encourages interaction, results in positive feelings toward the organization and a better attitude in the workplace.

Other Tips for Communicating with Staff

One-on-one (1:1) interactions are important in developing interpersonal relationships. The best style of communication to adopt in a 1:1 interaction is clear and direct. Say what you mean. For example, “You seemed distressed earlier today.” The advantage to 1:1 interaction is that you can address sensitive issues inappropriate for a group meeting.

  • 1:1 meetings with staff are also an ideal time to discuss negative feedback or when asking for honest information about issues of concern to staff members. Most 1:1 interactions should be confidential, however, a letter or email follow-up including others may be appropriate if the situation warrants.
  • 1:1 interactions with peers are useful for comparing information among departments, improving relationships and addressing issues that affect multiple teams. In peer-to-peer interactions, phone calls and emails are useful but face-to-face meetings may be the most effective way of addressing more complex issues.

Overall, 1:1 interactions are helpful in building relationships and demonstrating respect for your staff members’ and coworkers’ privacy.

Equally important: Be receptive to staff input, both of the positive and negative variety. Simple ways to demonstrate being receptive include:

  • Listen, nod and smile encouragingly, especially if employees seem nervous or uncomfortable.
  • Avoid making promises; instead, reassure the employee that their concerns are important and will be taken seriously.
  • Write down complaints and concerns; this demonstrates that you intend to follow-up.

Consider taking this a step further by investigating employee concerns, sending follow-up emails and scheduling a one-on-one meeting with the employee to discuss your findings.

Listening Skills Needed to Be a Nurse Administrator

While it is important to be able to speak to colleagues and patients in a straightforward manner, it is equally important, especially when dealing with patients, to be a good listener. With that in mind, master active listening skills and pass them on to your staff. Adopting receptive body language conveys to patients that you are sincere and willing to help. Reinforce this by practicing the following when others speak:

  • Lean forward and nod your head.
  • Keep a relaxed posture; do not fold your arms.
  • Maintain eye contact.

Also, make sure your staff pays attention to a patient’s pitch and tone. They may say, “Everything is fine,” or, “I understand,” but a dreary pitch, a worried expression or folded arms and hunched shoulders could indicate otherwise. It’s possible they may not understand what was said or they have additional concerns that they are afraid to address. It is your job to win their trust through body language, tone and choice of words.

Employing good communication skills with patients can result in the following outcomes:

  • More expedient recovery rates
  • Increased reports of feeling safe
  • Higher satisfaction with the quality of care
  • More likely to follow treatment plans

Developing your communication skills is key in preparing you to manage fellow nurses and provide exceptional patient care. The ability to listen and communicate effectively in both speech and writing tends to make others think of you as trustworthy and enhances your ability to motivate and lead. More importantly, good communication skills lead to more positive patient outcomes, higher employee satisfaction and better overall health care.

Want to learn more about becoming a nurse administrator? Check out the “What Skills are in Demand for Nurse Administrators” free guide.

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