Reflective accounts

Communication skills

The exchange of verbal and non-verbal messages in communication is vital in my role as a primary care nurse in a male prison. Nurses should use effective communication skills to encourage offenders to open up and discuss their problems and emotions.

Picture credit: Alamy

The CPD article addressed the nature of effective communication and some of the barriers to it, emphasising the role of the nurse, the environment and the perceptions of the individual.

Environmental barriers for the individual might include noise and lack of privacy. Environmental barriers for the nurse, for example lack of time, or staffconflict, can affect the individual’s response and deter them from sharing emotions.

Other barriers include individuals’ difficulty in explaining their feelings, or the nurse not being equipped with the skills to handle any challenging situations that may arise.

For nurses, effective communication helps to keep the focus on the patient and allows the sharing of information. Interactions between the nurse and the individual should always be patient-centred, and this relies on recognising and acting on communication cues.

It was interesting to read how a nurse can use a facilitative question, linked to a cue, to elicit disclosures from a patient. By acting on cues, the nurse can gain insight into the patient’s illness or behaviour. As a result of the CPD article, I will act on communication cues in my job.

As a core skill in nursing, effective communication is developed in pre-registration training and during preceptorship, clinical supervision and mentorship. It helps to demonstrate the nurse’s competence and encourages others to have confidence in their ability.


When nurses actively listen, they convey compassion. As a result, the patient’s experience of an interaction may be deemed positive, regardless of their state of health and how distressed they may have been.

For example, staff found it difficult to communicate with a recently bereaved offender. They employed empathetic listening when interacting with him to encourage him to open up, without pressurising him to talk about his feelings. As a result, healthcare staff were able to support him effectively.

The CPD article helped me to identify the importance of two-way communication in my role, enhancing my understanding of the skills required to deliver good patient care. I intend to maintain and develop my communication and active listening skills. I will consider undertaking further training and attend courses outside the work environment.

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