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3 Steps to Better Nurse Patient Communication
Date Posted: 19/May/2012


Nurses are busier than ever with both the routine tasks and the increasing roles of facilitating medical teams and fostering better communications. Coordinating tasks and relationships is a challenge, so to that point, what are three best practices for making your life easier and your service more satisfying?
I like to find easy ways to remember tools that work. When I think of communications, remembering the tools as the “3 C’s” is a great way to be mindful of what works. The “3 C’s” are:
Confirm feelings and thoughts.
Clarify information.
Collaborate to evaluate healing.
What is so profound about the “3 C’s” is that, when one “C” is missing, effectiveness diminishes. For example, if I forget to confirm a patient’s current state (feelings and thoughts), and jump to the clarifying of information, I may come across as unfeeling or disinterested to that person. If I skip clarify, the person may find me a great, collaborative person but may have the wrong information. And if I skip collaborate, then I won’t have the ongoing picture of how the patient is doing and how to best improve our medical practice and treatment.
All of us intuitively know when communication has gone well or when it hasn’t. The “3 C’s” are an assessment for what was left out.
So what are some tips for each of the “3 C's”?  Many examples of the “3 C’s” are best formulated as questions.
“How are you feeling today?”
“So your pain has diminished by using the daily _____?”
“You seem concerned about _____.”
Note: Depending on the response, you may confirm more about their feelings and thoughts, OR the response will demand the next “C”, clarify.
“Discharge from the hospital will be on Friday if three things happen, _____, ______, and ______.”
“You will be taking one more medication when you go home.”
“The reasons for this additional medication are ________.”
Note: When clarifying and providing information, always try to explain WHAT will happen and WHY it is important for the patient. When I talk with caregivers and their patients, this is one area where all of us as professionals can improve our communication.
“How can we do better?”
“How is the treatment working?”
“What concerns do you have when you’ve left our care?”
Note: The collaboration piece often involves the caregiver as your partner.  Encouraging both patient and caregiver to think and anticipate what is to come is a key role for the nurse who wants to achieve long term health outcomes.
As you consider these issues, ask yourself, “Did I leave out one of the “C’s?” The “3 C’s” are a toolkit for your life and for building satisfying relationships. 
About the Author:  Margery Pabst is the co-author of “Enrich Your Caregiving Journey”, the winner of the “2010 Caregiver Friendly Award”.  Margery is the author of “Ask the Caregiving Coach”, a monthly feature for and is the host of “Caregiver and Physician Conversations” sponsored by, where she also serves as their caregiving expert.

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