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The Effect of Oral Communication On a Patient

Emily Gathman

Louisiana State University

Authors Note

This paper was written for ENGL 2001, taught by professor Coco. The audience of this

paper is future nursing students and nurses who want to understand the affect their words can

have on a patient.


This paper was written as a tool for future nursing students to understand the importance

of communication in the job they are pursuing. This paper discusses the oral communication

skills needed by people in the nursing career to properly care for their patients. The paper

explores specific attributes of oral communication that can help a nurse in day to day interaction

with patients. These attributes include listening, simplified language, pre-operative language, and

active communication. Sources are provided as evidence to the points presented in the report to

help the reader understand the true impact a nurses words can have on a patient.

Keywords: oral communication, nurses, verbal communication, listening, simplified language,

pre-operative language, active communication


In the category of focus, I gave myself a 1. I think that the points I made I the paper
generally relate to my overall theme of effects oral communication can have on a patient.
However, I think I could have stayed a little more focused and directly connected my points to
the theme. In the organization category, I gave myself a 2-. I think my paper is slightly organized
but there is room for improvement. In development, I gave myself a 2. I think I tried my best to
develop my points in the time given, but I could use help further developing them and being
more specific. In audience awareness, I gave myself a 1+. I tried my best, but I seem to struggle
with righting in a way that keeps my audience in mind.
I think the sources I have for this paper will do a good job at backing up the claims I
make in the paper. Unfortunately, I did not include all of them in this draft. However, I think my
paper does a good job at starting the process of understanding the effect oral communication can
have on a patient and the importance of oral communication. I think my common pitfall section
is the strongest part of this paper.
1. How do I use my voice to keep the audience in mind?
2. How can I further develop the points I have already made?
3. Are there any ideas or arguments that I am not considering that can improve the points I
am trying to make in the paper?

The Effect of Oral Communication On a Patient

1 Nurses use many forms of communication in day to day environments. They rely on

communication to understand what is needed of them and what type of care would be best for the

patient. Communication in general is incredibly important to all people in order to ensure that

systems and activities run smoothly. However, it has been said that communication is even more

vital to nurses than the average person. Oral communication is one of the most important braches

of communication for nurses. Oral communication generates the capability of nurses to

understand their patients and the needs of those patients. Verbal communication can have many

different effects on the patient, and it is the job of nurses to know correct oral communication

skills to guarantee the health and well being of the patient.

2 Oral communications can be extremely beneficial to patients when it is used correctly by

nurses. By communicating effectively with patients, nurses have a better opportunity to learn

vital information about the patient that can help in patient care and diagnosis. A key part of oral

communication that can provide tremendous information to nurses is the skill of listening.

Listening to patients is the main way nurses can understand the situation the patient is in. Even

information that passes by in small talk can help nurses do their job. Perhaps what seemed like a

small fall to a patient, could be an explanation to the nurse for why the patient is having seizures.

Often patients will mention information that seems unimportant to them but is vitas in the nurses

diagnosis if the patients. If nurses listen closely they may be able to pick up on information that

would otherwise be a mystery. In Wilmingtons study on communication instruction for nurses,

communication skills associated with listening were most important and in greatest need of

improvement by nurses (Wilmington, 291). One reason listening is so important for nurses is

because it shows the patient that they care. A nurse who is giving their full attention to a patient

will help them feel comfortable and cared for. This behavior will often encourage the

continuation of oral communication which may help with future patient care.

3 Another key aspects of verbal communication that is key to the success of nurses is the

over simplification of language. Often, patients do not have the education needed to understand

medical terms used by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff. Not understanding what is

going on because of this language barrier may cause unnecessary stress to the patient and their

family. In order to receive proper consent for treatment from a patient of their family, it in

important that nurses confirm that the patients understand what is going on. An example of this

situation can be seen in the article written by Williams where a nursing students discusses the

death of her father and how communication was key in that time of her life. Not long before the

father passed, hospital staff met with the daughter and her stepmother to discuss the option of not

resuscitating the father should he stop breathing. While the daughter understood what was

happening because of her training, the stepmother could not decide what to do because of her

lack of understanding. The daughter realized the importance oral communication can have on the

outcome of the wellbeing of the patient and their family. The daughter said the situation with

my stepmother highlighted for me just how complex communication is and how easy it is to be

taken for granted (Williams, 27). Because the daughter took the time to thoroughly explain the

situation to the stepmother, they were able to make a decision about the fathers treatment with

full knowledge of the consequences. Simplifying language may be something that is overlooked

by some nurses who assume others have knowledge of medical terms. However, this behavior

can be detrimental to the patients health and may cause stress to the patient. The patient may

also feel embarrassed that they do not understand the nurse, which can lead to a lack of

communication on the patients end as well. It is imperative that nurses take the time to explain

medical information concerning the patient to insure the patients wellbeing.

There can be many problems with oral communication in nursing. One of the many

pitfalls that can occurs is the practice of unconscious communication. This type of oral

communication consists of nurses speaking with patients without fully understanding the weight

of their words and the effect they have on the patient. When nurses are not fully active in their

communication, they can easily say something that can me harmful to the patient. An example of

this event is the idea of heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is when a nurse assumes the sexual

orientation of a patient and cares for them accordingly. Many attitudes in nursing assume that

all patients and significant others are heterosexual, and these heteronormative assumptions may

lead to poor communication that affects nursing quality (Rndahl, 374) Unconsciously

communicating with patients may lead nurses to say things that will make the patient

uncomfortable. This discomfort with the nurse has the potential to cause the patient to stay

closed off and resist communicating. The lack of communication can lead to problems with

diagnosis and treatment. By being active in their oral communication with patients, nurses keep

the door open to effective communication with patients when they are not offended or


The role nurses play in day to day patient care is vital. Without them, it would be

impossible to take care of all the medical emergencies in the world. While nurses are vital to the

healthcare industry, it is important that they do their jobs effectively or they can cause more harm

than good. By communicating effectively with patients, nurses are given a better opportunity to

provide the correct care for the patient. By listening, simplifying their language so the patient can

comprehend, and focusing on actively communication with patients, nurses open the door for

smooth effective communication. When communication from the nurses end is effective, it is

more likely the patient will communicate as well. This flow of communication can be vital for

nurses to care for patients. Thus, the outcome of the patients health relies heavily on the use of

oral communication. Verbal communication may just be the most important skill for nurses to

have, but it also affects the patient greatly. This affect is why proper oral communication is



Rndahl, G., Innala, S., & Carlsson, M. (2006). Heterosexual assumptions in verbal and non-
verbal communication in nursing. Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 56(4), 373-381.

Williams, C. (2007). Starting out: student experiences in the real world of nursing. A family
death highlights the importance of communication. Nursing Standard, 21(30), 27.

Wilmington, S. (1986). Oral communication instruction for a career in nursing. Journal Of

Nursing Education, 25(7), 291-294.