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Why Is Communication Important in Nursing Leadership

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Mar 26, 2024
Nurse Speaking to a Patient in a Medical Facility.

Why Is Communication Important in Nursing Leadership?

Effective communication, including nurse-patient communication, is vital for any nurse, especially nurses in leadership roles. Nurse leaders communicate with patients, families, nurses, administrators, and other health care professionals throughout the day. Strong communication skills can improve patient outcomes, boost employee morale, and help achieve organizational goals.

Nurses looking to further their education and advance into leadership roles should understand why communication is important in nursing leadership and ways they can improve or augment their communication. 

Types of Communication Used by Nurse Leaders

Nurse leaders use various forms of communication daily — whether with patients or with peers.

Oral Communication

Effective oral communication involves the following:

  • Speaking with patients, families, and staff
  • Leading meetings and presentations
  • Providing clear instructions and feedback to nursing staff

Nonverbal Communication

Effective nonverbal communication can mean the following:

  • Listening actively with empathy
  • Conveying confidence through body language
  • Observation of patients and nursing staff

Written Communication

Written communication encompasses the following:

  • Writing emails, reports, policies, etc.
  • Charting detailed patient notes
  • Creating organizational messaging
  • Creating clear schedules and other administrative information

Digital Communication

The pillars of digital communication include the following:

  • Leveraging electronic health record (EHR) systems to access information
  • Engaging on social media platforms
  • Using telehealth solutions

How Does Technology Affect Nursing Communication?

When considering why communication is important in nursing leadership, understanding the role of technology is essential. Technology has become deeply integrated into nursing communication through solutions such as those listed below.

Electronic Health Records

EHR systems enable instant access to test results, treatment plans, etc. Instant access enables better-informed communication about patient conditions between nurses and other health care providers.

Telehealth Platforms

Telehealth facilitates virtual communication with patients anywhere, anytime. It enables nurses to conduct video visits, send reminders, and monitor chronic conditions remotely. As telehealth accelerates, nurse leaders need the skills to leverage it to enhance patient communication and care.

Secure Messaging

Secure messaging apps enable seamless collaboration between nurses, doctors, case managers, and other staff members. This aids care coordination and efficiency.

Smart Devices

Smart medical devices are playing an integral role in digital nursing communication through real-time data and alerts. Examples are as follows:

  • Smart pumps. Automatically administer medications and fluids based on programmed settings. Alert nurses to issues.
  • Smart beds. Track patient movement, weight changes, and vital signs. Help prevent injuries and complications.
  • Smart monitors. Provide streaming data on oxygen levels, respiratory rates, electrocardiograms (EKGs), and more. Rapidly notify nurses if intervention is needed.

These tools reduce errors, improve response times, and give nurses greater insight into changes in patient status.

Why Communication Is Important for Nurse Leaders

Communication is important for nursing leaders because it directly impacts almost every aspect of their role. This ranges from nurse-patient communication to communication with other nurses and doctors.

Patient Experience and Outcomes

Effective nurse-patient communication leads to improved patient experiences and outcomes, including the following:

  • Builds trust and rapport with patients
  • Allows patients to fully express concerns
  • Facilitates patient understanding of diagnoses and treatment instructions
  • Ensures patient safety, care coordination, and interventions

Employee Job Satisfaction

Effective organizational communication leads to improved employee job satisfaction by:

  • Fostering a supportive, engaging culture
  • Providing clear direction to staff
  • Opening channels for feedback and input

Organizational Success

Effective organizational communication leads to numerous benefits, including the following:

  • Helps coordination across departments
  • Streamlines processes for efficiency
  • Unifies teams through common messaging

Potential Consequences of Poor Communication

Unfortunately, communication can break down in busy health care settings and produce negative results, including the following:

  • Medical errors. Nurses may misinterpret medication orders or fail to relay critical patient information. For example, a nurse could misinterpret a spoken order from a physician, leading to an incorrect medication dose for a patient.
  • Poor service. Patients may become frustrated due to inadequate communication. For example, patients may become aggravated if nurses or physicians fail to properly communicate and coordinate care, resulting in extended hospital stays or the need to repeat information to multiple providers.
  • Low morale. Staff may become confused or disengaged if messaging is unclear. For example, nurses may feel frustrated if instructions from physicians are vague or incomplete, leading to confusion or lower job satisfaction.
  • Inefficiency. Lack of standardized communication protocols may lead to duplicative tests, procedures, and costly delays. For example, a provider may order a test because they were unaware that it had already been performed, resulting in unnecessary costs and patient inconvenience.

Improving Communication Competencies

How, then, can nurse leaders ensure that they communicate effectively? Here are some tips:

  • Listen actively. Allow speakers to finish, ask clarifying questions, and reflect on key points.
  • Adjust for the audience. Tailor information for the specific person or group, and speak using clear, nonmedical terminology.
  • Use communication models. Apply models such as Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation (SBAR) to structure discussions.
  • Leverage technology. Use tools such as patient portals, messaging apps, and telehealth to expand communication.
  • Provide feedback. Create opportunities for staff input, and participate in your own self-evaluation.
  • Get leadership training. Enroll in an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), to hone communication competencies further.

Keep Advancing as a Nurse

The call to serve your patient community first led you to nursing, and that same dedication to patient care drives you to continue advancing your career. The University of Tulsa’s online MSN program has four specialty tracks to prepare you with practical knowledge to help you make a real difference. Learn more about the program today.

Recommended Readings

Achieving Health Care Justice: Breaking Down Racial Disparities in Health Care

How to Advocate for Patients as a Nurse Practitioner

The Benefits of Making a Career Change to Nursing


Cureus, “The Impact of Smart Pump Technology in the Healthcare System: A Scope Review”

Indeed, “10 Effective Ways to Improve Verbal Communication Skills”

ManpowerGroup, 10 Ways to Improve Communication Skills

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, What Is an Electronic Health Record (EHR)?

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Why Use Telehealth?

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