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5 Tips to Communicate Effectively with Family of Patients

5 Tips to Communicate Effectively with Family of Patients

5 Tips to Communicate Effectively with Family of Patients

March 16 2019

Effective Communication Ensures Better Patient Care Plus Builds Trust with their Family

Communication is a key part of patient care. However, it is also a very emotionally charged time for many families of your patients, especially when an illness is sudden or a patient is reaching the end of their life. They may have many questions, concerns and information they want to share with you.

Family plays an important part in advocating for their loved ones. It can be fine line that nurses walk when trying to be both considerate of families’ concerns while also asserting their expertise. This can cause the relationship you have with your patients’ families to not always be smooth and peaceful. But with some know-how you can help to improve patient care as well as build trust and a connection with your patients’ families.


1Half of communicating effectively is listening. Be sure that you employ active listening skills. Don’t just wait for a family member to finish speaking. Be present and fully listen to what they are saying. Don’t interrupt and take a moment to understand what your patient’s loved one is saying.


2Be mindful of nonverbal cues. Body language and tone of voice are just as important as words. Not only should you look for nonverbal cues in your patients’ families, but also be aware of the nonverbal cues you are sending them. Convey genuine interest and concern by making direct eye contact with them as they speak. Making eye contact will also help you to focus on what they are saying. Be sure to use a tone of voice that conveys both empathy and confidence. You want your patients’ families to know that you care, but that you also are an expert in what you are talking about.

Summarize and Ask

3When you have listened to what your patients’ loved ones have said, repeat it back to them. Summarizing what they have said is an effective way to show that you understand what they are saying. It also helps you to solidify that information in your own memory. Be sure to ask follow up questions when needed. This also shows that you have been listening to what someone has to say. Seeking more information can also help to improve patient care.

Ensure Patient Privacy

4It is critical to remember that there are privacy rules when communicating health information. You need to make sure that you are familiar with HIPPA laws as violating them may harm patients or lead to a lawsuit. Patients generally must consent for their medical information to be released. You can usually give medical information to family members involved in treatment or payment for treatment, providing that the patient does not object. When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a patient before sharing medical information.

Be Tactful and Honest

5Honesty is always the best policy. You never want to lie about a patient’s condition just to ease the worry of a loved one but always make sure that you are tactful when doing so. You may receive reactions of anger or sadness so be prepared to stay calm. You are there to provide care for the patient as well as comfort and understanding for their family during a difficult time.


Effective communication with the loved ones of patients can lead to better care of your patients as well as build trust with the families. Due to the difficult nature, it may take time to feel confident in the way you communicate with patients’ families, but the more experience you have, the easier it will become.

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