Interpersonal Communication in Nursing


In most instances, consumers’ initial contact with a care provider organization starts with a nurse. Because of this, it is critical that nurses possess capable interpersonal communication skills. Nurses balance many daily responsibilities as they work alongside fellow nurses and other healthcare team members to provide care for multiple patients. Those who are skilled communicators help establish trust with patients and elicit cooperative responses to treatment plans.

By demonstrating interpersonal skills in nursing, registered nurses can also establish positive relationships with their peers. This ongoing, positive rapport can have a far-reaching impact. It can lead to effective patient care as well as team-building in nursing departments.

Nurses who are interested in pursuing career advancement and enhancing their knowledge in the field of nursing can choose to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) degree.

Interpersonal Skills in Nursing

A registered nurse interacts daily with an array of medical personnel, patients, and other individuals. These may include doctors, healthcare administrators, nurse co-workers, as well as patients and patients’ families. Effectively accomplishing day-to-day tasks requires nurses to have medical knowledge, as well as the skills to implement that knowledge. The following interpersonal nursing skills and other traits help nurses promote rapport with both patients and co-workers.

Active Listening

Perhaps the most important skill a nurse can possess is the ability to listen actively. This is particularly critical because most patients do not have training in medical terminology and symptom diagnosis. As a result, nurses must listen carefully to decipher the symptomatic clues that patients communicate, and verbally paraphrase those responses to ensure accuracy. Nurses also need to demonstrate active listening when communicating with their co-workers, as it can help them efficiently complete their duties.

Concise Verbal Communication

Nurses assume the responsibility of relaying accurate information between physicians, patients, and the families of patients to ensure effective treatment decisions. Clear interpersonal communication in nursing is important in both verbal and written contexts. During emergencies, accurate information can make the difference between life and death. Concise verbal communication is also essential between co-workers. If nurses convey inaccurate information to one another, the patient can suffer.

Patience and Awareness

Patience plays an important role in many aspects of nursing. Effective caregivers provide information in a manner that calms family members without internalizing anxious or agitated reactions. With a calm and professional demeanor, nurses can reassure upset, impatient, or demanding stakeholders that they will receive information as soon as it develops. This is especially applicable when patient cases result in an undesired outcome.

Additionally, appropriate humor can lighten a tense atmosphere and may raise depressed spirits. The ability to use humor therapeutically is a carefully crafted gift, and nurses with this skill have frequently been able to maintain trusted, cooperative relationships with patients and their families.

Relationship Building

A team-oriented mentality usually correlates with effective interpersonal communication in nursing, which improves organizational performance and job satisfaction. Many factors converge to shape a nurse’s frame of mind when working and communicating together with colleagues. These include each person’s emotions, perceptions, and experiences. While nurses cannot control most of these factors, they can work to build a team environment that provides support in coping with life and professional circumstances. They can also strive to make interpersonal communication an effective, natural part of the nursing process.

Nurses who work well together promote higher morale and maintain safer environments for patients and peers. Furthermore, nurses who are team-oriented find it easier to manage stress, enjoy greater job satisfaction, and experience a better quality of life.

Conflict Resolution

Conflicts need not take a disruptive undertone. In fact, nursing professionals can use conflict as a positive learning opportunity. Conflicts arise due to variables such as opposing opinions, beliefs, emotional states, and outlooks. Interpersonal conflicts can take place when two or more nurses disagree, or when a patient disagrees with a nurse. Competitive conflicts can occur when nurses vie against each other to accomplish the same or a different objective.

Nurses who can see a situation from different perspectives and are willing to listen to differing views are usually able to find a genuine resolution. Addressing and resolving issues in a mature and professional manner is an indication of emotional maturity. It is important that nurses use logic and recognize emotional factors in making critical workplace decisions.

Critical Thinking

It is important that nurses evaluate information with a critical mindset, especially if they sense something is wrong or inaccurate. In these instances, it’s better to put personal feelings aside and err on the side of caution. As professionals, nurses are entitled to full explanations about activities that affect work matters. By ensuring that information is accurate, nurses can maintain positive relationships with their patients and peers, as well as reduce miscommunications and help rectify problematic issues.

Fostering Positivity

In the caregiving setting, effective nurses support intelligent questioning to promote an environment that values teamwork, rapport, and trust. Fostering positivity in a healthcare environment benefits everyone; patients can feel more comfortable as they adjust to their medical situations, and nurses can feel confident as they work in a productive and uplifting environment. Open and effective interpersonal communication will remain crucial to the success and effectiveness of healthcare providers.

Earn Your Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree

AdventHealth University Online started building its solid foundation for nursing education in 1908. Today, the university offers leading-edge education and experienced faculty who are dedicated to helping students pursue their futures, including earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) degree.

Learn more about how the AdventHealth University Online program can help you develop interpersonal skills in nursing as you prepare for career advancement in your field.

Recommended Readings

Managing Nurse Stress: Mental Health Tips and Resources

Registered Nurse Responsibilities

What Does Diversity Mean in Nursing?


American Nurse, “Consistent, Quality Communication”

Interpersonal Skills Online, “Interpersonal Skills Needed for Nurses”

RCNi, “Why Communication Is Important”

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