Nursing is a caring profession. It is also a profession that is more and more evidenced based in practice. In as much as the scientific aspects of nursing is increasing due to the complex technological advancement of medicine and the machinery that is used at the patients bedside, the fact remains that the nurse is the first person that the client usually comes in contact with in any emergency or hospital setting. Having said this, the term, “caring” is an essential emotion that all nurses, for that matter, all individuals in the health profession must possess. With caring comes the trained ability of the nurse to facilitate therapeutic communication. One might ask, what is therapeutic communication?
To better answer this question, the term communication should first be defined. Communication can be defined as “The Process of transmitting messages and interpreting meaning.” (Wilson and others, 1995) With therapeutic communication, the sender, or nurse seeks to illicit a response from the receiver, the patient that is beneficial to the patient’s mental and physical health. Just as stress has been proven to adversely affect the health of individuals, the therapeutic approach to communication can actually help. In any given situation everyone uses communication. Everyone has seen the individual that looks like they are either angry, stressed, feeling ill or maybe sad.
A distinguishing aspect of therapeutic communication is its application to long-term communication interactions. Therapeutic communication is defined as the face-to-face process of interacting that focuses on advancing the physical and emotional well-being of a patient. This kind of communication has three general purposes: collecting information to determine illness, assessing and modifying behavior, and providing health education. By using therapeutic communication, we attempt to learn as much as we can about the patient in relation to his illness. To accomplish this learning, both the sender and the receiver must be consciously aware of the confidentiality of the information disclosed and received during the communication process. You must always have a therapeutic reason for invading a patient’s privacy.
These emotions are communicated to others not always by words, but by gestures and facial expressions. A nurse must always be aware of these expressions in clients, for these expressions may be the only way that the nurse can tell if there is something else going on that needs their attention. The term given to this type of non-verbal communication is called, meta-communication. In meta-communication, the client may look at their amputated stump and say that it doesn’t really look that bad, while at the same time tears are rolling down from their eyes. In a case such as this the nurse should stay and further explore how the person actually feels. The effectiveness of an interview is influenced by both the amount of information and the degree of motivation possessed by the patient (interviewee). Factors that enhance the quality of an interview consist of the participant’s knowledge of the subject under consideration; his patience, temperament, and listening skills; and your attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues. Courtesy, understanding, and nonjudgmental attitudes must be mutual goals of both the interviewee and the interviewer.
Finally, to function effectively in the therapeutic communication process, you must be an informed and skilled practitioner. Your development of the required knowledge and skills is dependent upon your commitment to seeking out and participating in continuing education learning experiences across the entire spectrum of healthcare services. There are many factors associated with the healing and comforting aspects of therapeutic communication.
Circumstances, surroundings, and timing all play a role in the effect of therapeutic communication. If a client is being rushed down for an emergency surgery there might not be time for a bedside conversation, but the holding of a hand could convey much more than words to the client at such a moment. Ideally, for therapeutic communication to be effective the nurse must be aware of how they appear to the client. If a nurse appears rushed, for example, they are speaking quickly, their countenance looks harried, and they are breathing heavily, their eyes not on the client but perhaps on an intravenous bag on the client in the next bed. In a case like this, there is nothing that this nurse could say to the client in a therapeutic manner that the client would believe. The helping relationship has not been established and therefore therapeutic communication cannot be facilitated. Some of the emotions associated with therapeutic communication include but are not limited to the following: Professionalism, Confidentiality, Courtesy, Trust, Availability, Empathy, and Sympathy. (Potter, Patricia A., Perry, Anne G., Co. 2003, Basic Nursing Essentials for Practice, pg. 123, Mosby)
All of these emotions go into the client nurse relationship, which must be established by the nurse as soon as possible upon first meeting the client. To begin to establish this nurse client relationship, the nurse must assess the overall message that the client is communicating to the nurse, such as fear, pain, sadness, anxiety or apathy. The nurse should be trained in keying into the message that the client is sending. Only then can the nurse determine the best therapeutic approach. Anyone that has to be thrust in to a hospital or emergency room environment has level of anxiety. This level can go up considerably when the client feels that they have been abandoned or that there is no one there that really cares about how they feel. When a client is the recipient of therapeutic communication from a caring individual, a level of trust is achieved and more than, that the clients entire countenance can change for the better. Their blood pressure, respirations and levels of stress can simultaneously decrease. When this takes place, the management of pain, if any is involved, can be resolved more quickly. The goal for a nurse is to become proficient in the medical art of therapeutic communication to facilitate the healing process, both mentally and physically.